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The Works of Leonard Merrick
The Works of
CX)NRAD IN QUEST OF HIS YOUTH. With
an Introduction by Sm J. M. Babbie.
WHEN LOVE FUES OUT O* THE WINDOW.
With an Introduction by Sm William Bobebt-
THE QUAINT COBIPANIONS. With an Intro.
duction by H. 6. Wsuik
THE POSITION OF PEGGY HARPER. With
an Introduction by Sib Abthttb Pinkbo.
THE MAN WHO UNDERSTOOD WOMEN and
other Stories. With an Introduction by W. J.
THE WORLDLINGS. With an Introduction by
THE ACTORpMANAGER. With an Introduction
by W. D. BawmujL
CYNTHIA. With an Intradactkin by BiAUBics
ONE MAN'S VIEW. With an Introduction by
THE MAN WHO WAS GOOD. With an Intro-
duction by J. K. PsofiBBBo.
A CHAIR ON THE BOULEVARD. With an
Introduction by A. Neil Ltons.
THE HOUSE OF LYNCH. With an Introduc-
tion by G. K. Chebtebton.
WHILE PARIS LAUGHED: Bedyg Pbankb and
Pabsionb op the Poet Tbicotbin.
E. P. DLTTON & COMPANY
By LEONARD MERRICK
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
E. P. DUTTON AND CXDMPANY
Ml FIFTH AVENUE
■ -Digitized by
BT lOTCHEXL KENNERLT
BT E. P. DUTTON AND COIfPANT
AU Rigkii Ruer9§d
THE WEW YORK
A8TOP, LENOX AND
H 1936 L
THIS EDITION IS UMTTED TO 1550 COPIES, OP WHICH
1500 ONLY ARE POR SALE
•fttotad In the Ualtad Smtas of AnMriai
Anglo-Saxon fiction, either in its English or
in its American condition, is not so rich in form
that one who feels its penmy can pass any excep-
tion by, and not dread coming to actual want.
A keen/ perhaps a quivering, sense of this, was
what made me, in my first acquaintance with the
novels of Mr. Leonard Merrick, resolve to share
with the public my pleasure in their singular
shapeliness. No doubt, a great many of our
short stories have form; but here it is a question
^ of novels, and not of short stories. In short
^ stories, it is rather difficult not to have form; in
\j novels, it is so difficult that I can think of no
^ recent fictionist of his race or nation who can
vi quite match with Mr. Merrick in that excellence.
^ This will seem great praise, possibly too great,
^ to the few who have a sense of such excellence;
t but it will probably be without real meaning to
]^ most, though our public might very well enjoy
form if it could once be made to imagine it. In
^ order to this end, we should have first to define
^ what form was, but form is one of those elusive
^ things which you can feel much better than you
can say; to define it would be like defining charm
in a woman, or poetry in a verse. Possibly, in
order to enforce my point, I should have to bid
the reader take almost any novel of Mr. Mer-
rick's and read it; for then he would know what
form was. Possibly, this is the conclusion to
which I must come now, but I do not deny that
this would be what is called ''begging the ques-
As to the world which this excellent form
embodies, it may be said, first, that every writer
of fiction creates the world where his characters
live. Of course, if he is an artist, it is vital to
him to believe he is representing the world where
he lives himself; and in a certain measure he is
doing so, but he is always giving their habitat
stricter limits than his own. One of the con-
ditions of every art is that its created world
must be a microcosm; even if it is not avowedly
a fragment, the portrait it paints of life is a
miniature where everything but the essentials are
left out. If its eflFects are wisely meditated, it
will sometimes show that the essentials are the
little things and not the large things. The scene
does not matter; the quality or station of the
actors in it does not count; nothing matters or
counts but the eflFect of reality. It is a very
narrow world Mr. Merrick deals with, and of
events so few that it is wonderful how con-
tinually he provokes the reader's curiosity and
holds his interest, though for the young and kind,
or for the old and wise, it is a world which will
always have a glamour, will be misted in an
illusion such as wraps the persons whom its
people are engaged in representing, either in the
novel or in the drama. In other terms, and I
hope simpler terms, his story is commonly the
story of obscure talent struggling to the light in
those very uncertain avenues to distinction and
prosperity; and he contrives to vary it only by
the different phases of their failure or success,
which is always the same sort of failure and
success. I do not know why the events should
be of more appreciable human concern than com-
parable events in the lives of rising or falling
painters, sculptors anfl architects, who should
equally appeal in their like quality of artists.
But it is certain that we somehow feel an enchant-
ment in the career of the artists who create
characters in fiction, or represent them in the
theatre, which we do not feel in the careers of
those other artists. It may be that this is because
we live longer with their creations or represen-
tations, and therefore are better acquaintance or
closer friends with the creators. You cannot
linger two or three days on the details of a
picture or a statue or a building, as you can on
those of a novel, or even three hours, as you can
on those of a play; and you cannot know them so
well that you long to know the author or actor,
and attribute to him all sorts of personal interest,
which perhaps experience would not realize in
him. In any case, it is certain that, since fiction
ceased to concern itself solely with kings and
princes, or even with the nobility and gentry, it
has found nothing of such sovereign effect with
the reader as the aspirations and adventures of
people, the younger the people the better, trying
to get past the publisher or the manager into the
light of the public square. These at present
share the sort of "pull" which the pirate and the
robber, the seducer and the seduced, the pick-
pocket and the pauper, the bankrupt, the rightful
heir, the good and the bad trades-unionist, the
muscular Christian, the burglar and the detec-
tive, all once enjoyed in turn, and now enjoy no
longer, at least with the polite reader; and it
ought to be fortimate for Mr. Merrick that his
novels are mainly concerned with them in the
hour of their surpassing attractiveness. I have,
of course, no belief that he chose them because
of their pull; it is much more probable that, in
the strange way these things come about, he was
chosen by them because of his personal intimacy
with their experiences. It is scarcely pertinent
to conjecture that the material of his fiction, out
of which he has shaped its persons and events,
is employed at first hand. A much more impor-
tant fact is that he is always and instinctively
artist enough to employ it for the stuff it is, and
that he has not attempted, so far as I can make
out, to pass off any clay image of his fabrication
for a statue of pure gold, or even of gilded
bronze. No squalor of that world of his is
blinked, and we learn to trust him, not perhaps
quite implicitly, for a faithful report of the world
he knows so well, but implicitly enough, because
he seems to have no question as to his function
in regard to it. He is quite as honest as a Latin
or a Slav would be in his place, and never as
dishonest as some other Anglo-Saxon might be.
He is not so much in the bonds of superstition
concerning passion as most novelists, and there-
fore he is not of the inferior novelists; he ranks
himself with the great ones in that. He has the
courage to own that certain veritable passions
die long before those who have known them are
dead. Apparently, he has seen this happen in
the world among real men and women, and he
portrays the fact as he has seen it happen. His
fidelity cannot recommend him to the "world that
loves a lover** so much that it will not allow that
he can ever cease to be a lover; but it ought to
make him friends with the few who love truth
better even than lovers. At any rate, it is the
event in several of his books, in perhaps the best
of them, though sometimes he sacrifices to the
false god also, and has lovers go on loving with a
constancy which ought to have made him a wider
public than I am afraid he has.
Of the two arch-enemies of love, prosperity
and adversity, he makes the oftener study of
adversity. There is a great deal of grim adversity
in his books, which sometimes remains adversity
to the end, but also sometimes puts oflF its frown.
It is the more depressing when it becomes or
remains the atmosphere of that ambition which
seeks fruition in the successes of the theatre. If
we are to believe him, and somehow Mr. Merrick
mostly makes you believe him, the poor creatures,
usuaUy poor women creatures, who are trying
to get upon the stage, are almost without number,
and certainly outnumber the struggling jour-
nalists and authors a hundred to one. The
spectacles of their humility and humiliation, of
their meek endeavours and cruel defeats, are of
such frequent recurrence in his novels and tales
that, after a little knowledge of them, one ap-
proaches the scene with an expectation of heart-
ache through which nothing short of the mastery
dealing with them would support one. In the
monotony of the event, it is very remarkable
how he distinguishes and characterizes the dif-
ferent children of adversity, especially the daugh-
ters. They are commonly alike in their adversity,
but they are individual in their way of experienc-
ing it. In fact, in an age of intensely feminized
fiction, he is one of the first of those who know
how to catch the likenesses, to the last fleeting
expression, of women; and especially women of
the theatre. Probably, these are not essentially
diflFerent from other women, but they have an
evolution through their environment which no
one else seems to have studied so well. Some-
times they are good women and sometimes they
are bad, but they are so from a temperament
diflFerently a£Fected by their errant and public
life, their starved or surfeited vanity, their craze
for change and variety, and they keep a sim-
plicity, a singleness, in their selfishness and
depravity, such as diflFerences them from women
bred amidst the artificialities of the world on the
other side of the footlights. It would be easy
to name a score of them from his pages, but it is
sufficient to name Blanche Ellerton in The
Actor-Manager as a supreme type; Nature
meant her for the theatre only.
There is no perceptible mechanism in the story
of The Actor-Manager, in every way the best of
Mr, Merrick's stories so far as I know them. At
aU moments of it you feel that it happened, and
that the people in it are alive, with a life of human
probabilities beyond it. I can recall no English
novel in which the study of temperament and
character is carried farther or deeper, allowing
for what the people are, and I do not remember
a false or mistaken line or colour in it. For any-
thing to equal it, we must go to the Slavs, in such
triimiphs of their naturalness as Tourgu^nieflTs
Smoke, or the society passages of Tolstoy's JFor
and Peace. The French stories are conventional
in their naturalism beside it; perhaps a Spaniard
like 6ald6s has done work of equal fineness. It
is not alone in Royce Oliphant, with the stress
of his hereditary conscience, or in Blanche EUer-
ton, depraved both by her artistry and by her
ambition, that the author convinces; Otho Fair-
bairn, who becomes the ''scoundrel" that Blanche
not less deliberately than hysterically makes him
for his money, and Alma King, who is as good
an artist as Blanche and yet a good woman, and
Blanche's mother whose sentimental novelettes
support her contemptuous husband in the pro-
duction of his real but unmerchantable master-
pieces, and Blanche's plain sister with her famine
for a little love, a little admiration from men,
are aU in their several ways entirely lifelike. The
theatre itself , which began as a theatre of art, and
ended as a theatre of profit, has abnost a human
appeal in its tragedy, as if it were a sentient
organism, with a heart to be broken and a soul
to be lost. Nobody who is not inevitably bad
is very bad; in the book the world is the world
we live in.
Why, then, is not this masterly novelist a
master universally recognized and accepted?
That is something I have asked myself more than
once, especiaUy in reading the criticisms of his
several books, not one of which has lacked the
praise of some critic qualified to carry conviction
of its merit. Perhaps the secret is that the stories
are almost always very unhappy. There is no
consolation in their tragedy; they do not even
"raise a noble teiTor," such as was once the sup-
posed business of tragedy. Upon the whole, they
leave you feeling mean, feeling retroactively
capable of the shabby things which have been
done in them. Another secret may be that, when
the poverty which haunts them is relieved in this
case or that, you are left with a sense of the
vast poverty still remaining in the world; if a
struggler is given a chance to get his breath,
the great struggle of life goes on. StiU another
secret may be that there is no fine world, no
great world, in the books; we scarcely recaU a
person of title in any of them, and people who
like to associate with the rich or great, when they
are "taken out of themselves," have not the com-
pany of so much as one high-bom villain, one
corrupt grande dame. Socially it is not "good
company" we find ourselves in, and morally it
is not even the "best company" as Jane Austen
calls it; and yet it is somehow consoling, some-
how encouraging to have known such a good
and clever man as Royce Oliphant, such a good
yet gifted woman as Alma King, even such a
kind wrong-doing soul as Otho Fairbaim, or
such a gentle, modest, unselfish creature as the
mother of Blanche EUerton, earning her hus-
band's bread by writing the popular novelettes
which enable him to write his unpopular novels
and despise her trash on a full stomach. Very
likely Mr. Merrick may have had his moments
of consciously contriving the story in The Actor-
Manager and of actuating his characters in con-
formity with a preconceived plan, but he does
not suflFer his readers to share these humiliating
moments. For all they know, the things hap-
pened from the nature of the characters in the
given circmnstances with no apparent agency
W. D. HOWELLS.
There used to be, in the neighbourhood of the
Museum, an eating-house, of which the feature
was a three-course dinner for sixpence. On a
board in the doorway was inscribed "First-class
Room Upstairs," and this was well worth visit-
ing. Its true attraction, however, did not lie in
its steaming soup, its colonial meat, nor its im-
pregnable pastry, but in the study of its patrons.
Eschewing the ground-floor, where, to the casual
observer, the dirt of the diners obscured their
interest, one found oneself among pale-faced
girls in sage-green frocks of eccentric pattern,
among young men with bilious bows and abun-
dant hair. These were "art-students" — to use
the comprehensive term by which the students
of painting describe themselves — the fact was
evident at a glance, before scrutiny discovered
the mark of the Roman Gallery in charcoal on
their fingers. A greasy coat, white at the left
elbowy and frayed under the ri^t cu£f» confirmed
2 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
the impression that its wearer was a hack from
the Reading Room. Sometimes a reporter and
his note-book might be recognised ; more frequent
was the sight of a violin-case, or a roll of songs.
Occasionally a denizen of the foreign quarter
behind Tottenham Court Road stumbled upon
the establishment — ^to sigh for the forbidden
cigarette, and renew his allegiance to the restau-
rants of Charlotte Street; now and again a stray
shop-girl out of employment, or an excursionist
up for the day, gaped at the costumes of the com-
pany — approving the cuisine and disdaining the
clientele. A little woman with spectacles and
close-cropped hair suggested mathematics; and
a Pole, whose unkempt locks swept the grime on
his velvet collar, left one in doubt whether to
attribute to him operas or infernal machines.
On a certain winter afternoon, the room,
usually so full, was deserted save by two persons.
One was a man of about thirty; the other was a
girl, five or six years younger. Though they
had often noticed each other there, they were
not acquaintances, and to-day each was at once
interested and a shade embarrassed by the other's
presence. When the waitress reappeared with
pudding, the silence between them had not been
broken, but the man, stealing another glance,
saw that the girl was crying.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 8
They were seated close together; the room
contained three long tables, but two of them were
bare, and the cloth extended but half-way down
the third. The preparations for custom had been
slight to-day at the eating-house, and of aU its
struggling frequenters, of all its hopeful and its
hopeless band, only these two apparently had
had nowhere else to go. The attendant, who had
returned to her chair behind the counter, con-
templated them with an air of compassionate
protest. The date was December the twenty-
He looked quickly away, out at the dreary
street. He understood the tears that stood in
his companion's eyes — if he had been a woman,
his mood would have required the same relief.
That, though, was not his thought; the thought
of which he was suddenly conscious was that
he wished the girl and he knew each other. He
was alone, and loneliness had never ached more
strongly in him. In fancy he had been reliving
his life, lingering at the milestones, and scenting
afresh the fragrance of mornings passed away.
He remembered Christmas at the Vicarage — ^had
seen himself a child again in his father's church.
The old man's face and white hair above the
pulpit, and the laurel and crimson berries round
the font, fiiashed close — seemed close enough for
4 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
him to clasp them. He remembered his scholar-
ship, his joy, the moment when his father's lips
had trembled at the news; reviewed his boyhood
at Harrow, and his confidence at Oxford. It
was to be the Chmx^h then for him, too. He
recalled the first touch of indecision; the time
when the cry of art within him became insistent;
the night when he annomiced the change in his
intentions. Under the snow in the cemetery his
father lay now, beyond the reach of disappoint-
ments. Thank Grod the bond between them had
never weakened 1 The long battle which was still
miwon had been mentally refought since his
meagre breakfast; and the sense of solitariness,
the longing for sympathy was acute as he stared
through the window at the empty street.
He spoke a second later:
"We're spared the outrage of a Christmas
pudding made fashionable in a mould here. If
a Christmas plum-pudding's not as round as a
cannon-ball, it isn't a Christmas plum-pudding."
"No," she said. She sought for a continuation.
"And it ought to be very big," she added.
"With a sprig of holly and blue flames."
Momentarily he saw the Vicarage again. If
Christmas were good for nothing else, it would
serve to remind us we were once innocent and
happy, and didn't know it; for eveiyone associ-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 6
ates Christmas more vividly with his own child-
hood than with Christ's. The girl did not reply
further; she looked down at her plate. The man
looked wistfully at the girl; and the attendant,
with a smothered yawn, looked at the clock.
"I think IVe seen you here before," said
Oliphant. "I wonder they're open to-day. I
was half afraid I shouldn't get any dinner."
"It was the same with me — I'm only in lodg-
ings, and " She shivered, and pinned her
jacket more closely across her chest.
"Are you cold?"
"The fire isn't very Christmassy, is it? Do
you know what I'm going to do when I get up?
I'm going to walk round the Squares and look
into all the dining-rooms where hateful rich
people are having port and walnuts, and toasting
themselves before the most expensive coaL I
shall loathe them violently."
"And then?" said Oliphant, smiling.
"I shaD howL"
Though he had not failed to notice her previ-
ously, he was surprised that he had not noticed
her more. He regarded her with rising interest,
even with gratitude. Her face, though lacking
in colour, had a beauty which was accentuated
6 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
by the style in which the dark hair was worn —
parted in the centre, and waving loosely over her
brow and ears. Her eyes at first sight had looked
black, but he saw now that they were grey.
"My programme 'U be as lively as yours," he
"You've nowhere to go either?"
"Oh, IVe a large selection of thoroughfares;
and I can go home too. There's no place like
home, and it's often very fortunate."
"What do you do?" she asked.
"I'm an actor."
"Are you? I shouldn't have guessed it. I'm
"I wondered if you were; I was sure you acted
or sang. Are you playing anywhere?"
"I was in the Independent Theatre last month
— did you go? I haven't done anjrthing since
then; it's such a bad time of the year. I was
very fortunate to be in the Independent; I was
playing at Ealing, and the Margetsons saw me
and o£Fered me the engagement. I understudied
Mrs. Margetson. If I could have played
"Oh, Ibsen attracts you?"
"Well, I should like to play Hilda Wangel in
Th^ Master BuUder. I should like to play Hilda;
and I long to play Juliet, and — oh, I who am
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 7
nobody, how I should love to create Lucy Feverel
on the stage!"
"You read Meredith?"
"Because I'm an obscure actress can't I read?
Oh, I know, I'm not surprised you stared! But
I might have stared at you for knowing it was
Meredith. Lucy! She's the nineteenth-century
JuUet, isn't she? Are you one of the enemies of
the Independent, or one of the people who care
nothing about it?"
"Neither," he said. "The greatest work will
never appeal to the greatest number. How
"That's discouraging!" She rested her elbows
on the cloth — ^her fingers interlaced, and sup-
porting her chin — ^her eyes lifted to him atten-
"I mean the greatest creative work. Does an
actor or an actress create? You used the word,
but I'm afraid we don't. The best of us interpret
— like Paderewski, Sarasate; Wagner creates.
Shakespeare created Hamlet; the actor who
plays the part tries to interpret his intention.
Need he be any the less an artist because the
nature of his art demands collaboration?"
"His collaborators aren't all Shakespeares,"
she said; "nor Ibsens."
"Oh, there may be more brains in the actor
8 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
than in the part 1 What banalities are considered
seriously because he gives them life I"
"But good work is knocking at the stage
doors 1" she cried; "why isn't it admitted? Why
does the actor put the banalities on? When he
is his own manager, why not produce things that
are worthy of him?"
"Because the best only appeals to the minority,
as I say. If you want a proof of it, remember
that England claims the greatest dramatic poet
the world has known, and then look down the
list of the travelling companies — ^see how many
are playing his work I You know I — ^it's appall-
ing. Managers wouldn't pay fees for trash,
instead of taking poetry for nothing, if the
poetry drew as well; you can be quite sure of
that ; for their ambition is to make money."
"Is it yours?" she asked impatiently. "If you
were an actor-manager, what would you pro-
The attendant folded her novelette, rose, and
came round to the table.
"It's shuttin' up time, please," she said; "we're
only open to four o'clock to-day." She tore out
two vouchers, and picked up the coins.
"I wish I had spoken to you over the soup,"
said Oliphant, watching the girl put on her
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 9
She smiled. ''I was praying you wouldn't
speak at all — I felt so miserable. But I am glad
you did. Good-bye."
''Good-bye/' he said; and she preceded him
down the stairs. "I won't wish you *a merry
Christmas/ *' he added, as they reached the foot,
"but I hope it won't be too wretched. Are you
going to take that walk and loathe them
"I think so — ^it'U be something to do."
She seemed undecided whether to extend her
hand ; then made as if to offer it.
"You wouldn't let me come with you?" he said
hesitatingly; "I "
"I think not," she said ; "thanks."
They stood on the desolate pavement, looking
away from each other. The dayhght was slowly
fading, and on the pallor a yellow gas-lamp leapt
into the perspective.
"You don't mind my having asked you? I — I
meant no harm."
"No, I understand," she said; "but "
"It would lessen the awfulness for half an
hour," pleaded OUphant. "I've no one to talk
to, IVe nothing to read, and it'd be a charity.
Can't you imagine we've been introduced? Do
letme! . . . Will you?"
10 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
She wavered for an instant. "For half an hour
then," she responded. "Come !'*
"Thank you very much. Which way do we
"Oh, the loneliness of London!" exclaimed the
girl as they crossed the road; "the loneliness of
itr' She glanced at him and sighed. "This is
very improbable," she remarked.
"Probabilities aren't pleasing," said Oliphant.
"The greatest probability is that *the part is
already cast' !"
"It's a hard profession if one has no influence.
Have you been in town?"
"I've just got my first engagement here. We
open in about a fortnight. The Queen's. I speak
twelve lines. On tour I've been playing good
"How dreadful I What you must feel!"
"I do. But I couldn't endure the provinces
for ever. I want to get on; I ought to get on —
I've worked so hard, and hoped so long; it's
time I did something. If I'm playing in Lon-
don, a chance may be easier to find — in the com-
panies on tour one is buried. Don't you think
"I've played several small parts in London,"
she said, "but they have led to no better chance
for me. Oh, I'm discouraged! I haven't strug-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 11
gled so long as you, I daresay; but a girFs
weaker, and I'm discouraged."
"Are you quite alone?"
She nodded. "1 lost my mother last year;
she was all I had. When she died, it " Her
voice quivered, and they strolled on in silence.
"I think it made it crueller," she continued softly,
"to know that she thought I'd get on better with-
out her, because — because it was my joy to help
her as much as I could while she lived."
"I envy you!" said Oliphant; "all I did was
to cause my father pain."
"Didn't he want you to be an actor; is that
what you mean? Did you quarrel?"
"He didn't quarrel with me, but he was dis-
appointed. And he was the best father a man
"I like you for saying that," she answered.
"What did he want you to be?"
"What he was himself — a clergyman."
"Really?" she said with surprise; "and you felt
"I wanted to, once. It was as I grew older
that my views changed. I don't mean religious
views or anything like that — I simply felt that
my temperament forbade it and that the stage
was the only career possible for me. You asked
me in there what I'd do if I were an actor-
IJ THE ACTOR-MANAGER
manager. I went into the profession because I
loved it; because it seemed to me the stage might
teach as high a lesson as the pulpit — ^that it might
be the loudest, greatest voice in all the world.
More powerful than the Church, because the
Church is precept and the stage is action; more
intimate than the sister-arts, because it speaks in
a simpler tongue. And it should be art; but art
— art is revelation I Shall I tell you what my
"Yes," said the girl earnestly, "do; tell me
your dream I"
Instinctively they had paused. They were by
the pillar-box at the gates of the British Museum.
In the immense quietude theirs were the only
human figures; the London that gorged, and the
London that starved, were both out of view.
"I see," he said, "a small theatre, and at this
theatre the one literary medium for the drama
isn't held to be the baldest prose; poetry is neither
divorced from this stage, nor limited to Shake-
speare — it's thought possible to test the work
of a poet who has not had centiuies of advertis-
ing! But the realist is as welcome as the poet;
I should think he was welcome! Only the plays
are literature, and they are real plays. The men
and women live! They aren't puppets pulled
by inexorable strings through four acts to a
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 18
conventional end. Reward for virtue and pun-
ishment for vice are shown to exist in the soul
and not in material success and failure. To
depict the world as a school, where virtue wins
the prize, and vice gets a flogging, is immoral.
The parts around me aren't written down to
bring my part into greater prominence. The
dramatist who comes to me is free — free to be
true to his convictions and his art; free to choose
his characters where he will, and to trace their
legitimate development; free to make the lost'
woman noble, and the *godly' woman vile — for
such things are! — and the love within him for
all humanity would point the moral when it
needed pointing. The real playwright is your
real optimist — your real Christ-follower — for he
shows that sin doesn't mean damnation, and that
there is redemption for the pure in heart. The
one command laid upon him is to see things
nobly — ^that his deeper vision shall help the
crowd. Where shall I find such writers? There
are dramatists not knovm, and well-known
writers who could write much better. By degrees
I gather round me a band of — of the dmes hien
fUes, the — ^how shall I say it? — the "
"The elect I" she put in rapidly; "yes, I under-
stand French. It would be a good name for the
house— The Elect 1"
f- 14 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
t!. "I produce men who don't work for the stage
iV now, or whose manuscripts are considered hope-
less because they don't appeal to the largest
public. With a small theatre I could afford to
depend upon the educated minority. There is a
Press waiting for such an endeavour, and, though
at first the notices are bigger than the returns,
they gradually win for me the recognition of
all the public that I'm addressing. Believe me
that public is large enough to keep my house
open all the year round. Miss er — ^my com-
panion in misfortune, my theatre becomes a
force in intellectual London; I'm famous, happy,
I have fulfilled my ambition, I'm the manager
of the — the Theatre Royal Day-dream. • . . I've
been keeping you standing still in the cold; for-
give me I"
She caught her breath. "You're an artist,"
she said, "I believe you'll succeed. This is one
of the moments when I think that to be an artist
and fail, is something."
"We are both artists," he said; "The Two
"I haven't told you my name. It's Alma
"I'm so glad we met, Miss King. Mine's
Royce Oliphant. You see the benefit of giving
a thing a trial — ^we couldn't know each other
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 16
better if the formal introduction had taken place.
Now could we?"
''Look I" she murmured, halting again in two
or three minutes.
He glanced at the window that she indicated.
"Ah, the opportunity for the violent loath-
"No, only for the imagination after aU. How
torpid they look after their dinner I But it's
cosy in the firelight, isn't it? I wonder what
they do — one can't see their features? Trade, of
course. Trade in saddlebag armchairs digests
the turkey, and art in the streets builds castles
in the air. Observe the adipose children !"
"Their figures aren't distinguishable."
"I feel they're adipose — I told you this was
an exercise of the imagination. Oh, the servant
has come to pull the blinds down! The enter-
tainment is over. I don't think we'll look in
anywhere else — other people's comfort is very
They waited there, by the area railings, in
Bedford Square, nevertheless, till the last of the
blinds was lowered. Illmninated, the interior
had a fascination — the group on the hearth, and
the gleam of decanters imder the crimson shade
above the damask; the glinting picture-frames,
and the splendour of a Christmas-tree. Mean-
16 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
while on "The Two Bohemians" a little snow
began to fall.
"You must go home/* said Oliphant regret-
fully. "Do you live far away?"
"No, close," she said; "in Alfred Place. And
"In Burton Crescent."
"Oh, how wet you'll get! You'd better leave
me here; it's coming down more heavily."
"Nonsense! I'll see you to your door. We
go through Store Street, don't we?"
They hastened their steps, but both were sorry
that the end had come; to each of them the pros-
pect of the evening looked imutterably dismal.
"I suppose I may see you at dinner again?"
asked Oliphant, as they tinned by the little post-
office at the comer. "Have you any regular
"About two, as a rule."
"ShaU you be there to-morrow?"
"I don't know," she said, stopping; "perhaps.
This is the house."
"Good-bye, then," said Oliphant, "and thank
you again. I won't keep you standing in a snow-
storm to listen to pretty speeches, but I'm grate-
ful to you. I should like to think we're going to
She drew out a latch-key, and faced him for a
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 17
moment with steadfast eyes. Then quite simply
"I want you to come in, Mr. Oliphant, please;
and we'll have some tea."
She opened the door; and, delighted, he
followed her along the dark passage, into a room
to which she led the way. The fire was low, and
it was not imtil she had lighted the lamp that
Oliphant perceived that she was compelled to
make shift with one room only. The asperities
of bed and washhand-stand, however, were molli-
fied by a shabby screen. He chose a seat where
they would be behind him, and noted the resem-
blance between the broken vases on her mantel-
piece and those on his own. A framed photo-
graph was among the vases, and the girl took it
up and showed it to him.
"This was a likeness of my mother, Mr.
Oliphant,'' she said.
The dignity of the action thrilled him with
pleasure and respect; he felt that she could not
have done anything more beautiful.
She removed her jacket and gloves, and, kneel-
ing on the hearth, coaxed the fire into a blaze.
"Are you very wet?" she said. "As soon as
the kettle boils, things '11 be more cheerful. I
wait on myself very much here — I find it better."
"Have you been here long?"
18 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"No; only since the Independent perform-
ances — ^nearly two months. It isn't very com-
fortable, but ... I shall move when I get an-
other engagement. In the meanwhile I have to
put up with it." She puUed the pin from her
hat, and passed her slim hands over her hair.
"You are looking at my 'library* I It*s modest,
"I can only see the titles of two-thirds of the
library," he said; ''The Works of Shakespeare,
and Archer's Masks or Faces — ^you know your
Masks or Faces, do you I What is the little
"The little one is ninepennyworth of Brown-
ing. I'm studying Any Wife to Any Husband —
because I shall never in my life be given an
opportunity to recite it."
"Recite it now," said Oliphant.
"No, thank you. But what a recitation it
would make! I don't know why no woman ever
does it. Ah, it's lovely — isn't it divine I Do you
read much? But of course you do. I wonder
if you've ever tried to write?"
"What makes you asik that?"
"A play?" she exclaimed.
"Oh, yes; a play, of course."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 19
"It hasn't been produced, I suppose? — Oh,
how rude that sounds I"
"The assumption's correct. It has been ac-
cepted three times, but has not been produced.
It's in an agent's hands now; and I suppose it
will stay there — imless he loses it. It's a drama."
"Good?" she inquired, settling the kettle
"Z thought it was very good. So did every-
body else who read it — only nobody puts it on.
Your kettle won't sing I Isn't that what you
call it — 'singing'? Shall I draw up the fire for
you with that newspaper ?"
"The water was cold," she said; "it'll be all
right in a minute. I'll ring for a second cup and
saucer. Tell me about your drama."
"The idea — the foundation-stone at least — is
a shade melodramatic, perhaps; but the theme
doesn't make a play melodrama if there's no
bombast in the treatment?"
"I don't know," she said; "but even if it does,
mightn't a melodrama without bombast be as
much art as anything else? *The great future
for the stage lies in perfect freedom: freedom
to try every kind of experiment — to be realistic
or ideahstic, prosaic or fantastic, "well made"
or plotless; freedom to go anywhere, hke the
British Army, and do anything.' Have I a quick
80 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
study? — IVe only read the book once. What
is the foundation-stone?"
"It was suggested by the Tichbome Case.
Life, of course! But so many phases of life
become melodrama when they're transferred to
The bell drew from the basement a seven-year-
old child with wooden eyes, and fat unhealthy
cheeks. Jam and mince-pie clung to his chin,
and he snored.
"Will you ask your mother to let me have
another cup and saucer, Norman?" said the
lodger deprecatingly. "Say I've a friend here.
• . . We shall have it directly," ishe continued,
as the child shuffled out, "and then you must tell
me the plot."
They sat opposite each other on the narrow
hearth. Momentarily the dramatist was as
strong as the actor in Oliphant, and the play for
which he had hoped so much three years ago
moved him to conjfidence again. The girl, her
hands clasped loosely round her knee, leant for-
ward, stirred by visions in which a mighty theatre
hung upon her voice and the conquest of London
was achieved. Both tvuned at a peremptory
knock, and started as the door was throvm open.
The demeanour of the woman who stood on
the threshold was as excited as her method of
THE ACTOR-MANAGER «1
announcing herself. Her face was white, and
when she began to speak she trembled.
"This is pretty goings-on/* she said; "this
won't do 'ere ! I don't 'ave it, and that's all about
it." She turned to Oliphant. "I'll trouble you
to leave the 'ouse. Now then!"
"Mrs. Inunsl" stanunered the girl, as white
"My good woman," exclaimed Oliphant hor-
ribly distressed, "what do you mean? I assure
you There isn't the slightest reason for
you to be annoyed. I've the honour to be a friend
of Miss King's and she was kind enough to ask
me in for half an hour. I shouldn't have thought
there was anything extraordinary about it on
The householder did not seem to understand,
or to hear him.
"You'd best be oflF," she repeated, "and so I
tell yer ! This is a respectable 'ouse — not meant
for the likes of 'er! Yes, you I'm talkin' about —
yer thing; you as don't pay your rent! I might
'ave told what it'd be when I f oimd you was an
actress — I'd never 'ave taken you if I'd known!"
"You — ignorant — wretch!" gasped the girl,
steadying herself by the mantelpiece. "Go," she
added to Oliphant; "please, go!"
"The woman's been drinking," he said in a
22 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
low voice; "do you want me to leave you to her?"
"Yes, please I — Please I" she murmured agi-
"Aha!" cried Mrs. Imms; "and you go with
'im, that's more! I won't keep you no longer.
Out you go! I'll 'ave your box for what it's
worth, and you don't sleep in my 'ouse, not an-
Oliphant looked sharply roimd; but the mute
appeal forbade his lingering. The uproar con-
tinued as he traversed the passage — still in dark-
ness — and fumbled with the handles at the end.
The street opened upon him quiet and bleak.
The snow had ceased, but the wind blew bitterly.
He hated himself for having gone in, though he
could not perceive where he had been at fault.
The woman's threat to turn the girl out of doors
was in his ears, and weighed on his consciousness.
Impossible that he could leave imless satisfied
that it wasn't to be fulfilled! He made a
cigarette, lit it, and saimtered to and fro, debat-
ing how long a vigil was demanded to dispel all
His capital was reduced to eighteen shillings
and a few pence ; his prospects were represented
by the engagement at the Queen's Theatre, of
which he had spoken; an engagement which
would provide him with the sum of two pounds
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 9S
a week — less than half the salary that he had been
receiving in the provinces. If it had been other-
wise He sighed. He reflected that it would
have been a luxury to pay the amount of Mrs.
Imms's claim and send Miiss King to an hotel
where she could dine in reality before she slept,
and have a respite from her cares. Yes, that
would have been delightful. Did rich men have
these pleasiires? Or did the opportunities fall
only to men like himself, who couldn't seize them?
His cigarette was finished; he paused by a
lamp-post, and tried, with numbed fingers, to
roll another. Now she would regret that she had
met him — ^the oais in the desert of their London
had proved a misfortune to her ! Who could have
foreseen that it would have so serious a develop-
ment? All the same, she would always recall
it with abhorrence — that was only human nature.
. • . But perhaps in the morning the landlady
would apologise. He threw a glance at the house
again, and ran forward as a figure appeared on
"You?" faltered the girl, shrinking.
"I couldn't go till I knew," he said. "Are you
"Yes, don't — don't trouble, thanks. It was
good of you to wait, but there's nothing you can
do." Her tone was hard; but it could not con-
24 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
ceal that there were tears in her throat. She
looked away from him.
"Haven't you your luggage?"
"She wouldn't let me take it. You see, I
You understand, I owe her money — she has kept
my things. I have these."
"She hasn't the right," cried Oliphant, wincing
at the handbag ; "I'll make her give them up 1"
"No, no! don't go back — I'd rather you didn't;
I shall manage somehow. . . . Don't let me keep
you any longer," she repeated; "there's nothing
you can do."
"I've done enough!" said the man poignantly.
"You mustn't think that. You've nothing to
reproach yourself for — if any one is to blame, it's
I." The restraint that she was putting on herself
gave way: "You're the only living soul I've had
to speak to for two months!" she exclaimed, with
a hoarse sob. "Don't think badly of me if I
made a mistake."
He wished he were a woman that, for answer,
he might take her in his arms ; he could but ex-
press his sjmapathy and comprehension by halting
words. His poverty had never seemed so great a
shackle as while they stood there, helpless on the
pavement — the only sound, a bell that rang for
evening service at some neighbouring church.
"What do you mean to do?" inquired Oli-
phant after a brief pause. "You can't go to one
of these houses on Christmas night, without any
luggage, and expect to get a room."
"No, I've thought of that — I don't know yet
where I shall go. There's a place where I stayed
when my mother was living — the woman would
remember me. If it didn't mean a bus fare every
day, I'd try there."
"Where is it?"
"It's at Shepherd's Bush. Are the trains run-
ning this evening, do you know?"
"I daresay — ^you'll let me take you, if you go?
I can't lose sight of you till I know you're settled.
But how can you look for an engagement, if
you're hard up, from Shepherd's Bush — you
can't toalk to the Strand? Besides, the house
may be full; or perhaps the woman is dead. If
she's alive, I suppose she'll want to be paid, like
everybody else, won't she?" he added.
"I must get enough for the first week some-
M THE ACTOR-MANAGER
how/' she declared, sauntering on; "'and then
she must trust me, or I must give the room up."
"Look here," said Oliphant desperately, "we
haven't known each other two hours, of course;
and I can see you're as proud as Lucifer. But
I'm going to be as frank as if you were my sister :
I've eighteen shillings — and fourpence-half-
penny, I think it is — in the world. I wouldn't
tell many people that, so I've a right to ask for
your friendship in return. Let me lend you half
a sovereign till you get an engagement."
"Oh no," she said under her breath. "No,
"You won't? How can you be so unkind — so
— so absurd? What's to prevent it? Isn't it any
good? Or don't you respect me suflBciently?"
"Oh," she said, "that "
"Don't you like me enough? You know we've
been more conjSdential than many acquaintances
of years' standing: you're refusing because it's
strange that we should have grown so confiden-
tial in two hours. That's unworthy of a woman
with a mind hke yours! ... I wish you would
do what I ask, and let me get your luggage for
you to-morrow. Do you propose to let that beast
keep it till you can pay her?"
"I must think what to do about my trunk,"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 87
"And the — ^it's a big word for a silly sum — the
"Thank you, 'noM Really and truly 'noM I
appreciate what you've said very much; but be
tactful — and don't say any more."
"Very well," he returned. "Now where are
"I'm afraid Shepherd's Bush is too far," she
sighed; "and, as you say, the woman mayn't be
"Where did you stay before you went to
"I was on tour. . . . Last year I had apart-
ments in Keppel Street; but those 'd be too dear."
Her pace slackened to a standstill, and she turned
impatiently: "Please don't trouble any more!
There's not the least necessity for you to go
through all this as well."
"For the first time I'm compelled to differ
from you," said the young man; "I think there's
"Well, I'd rather you went," she insisted;
"you'll oblige me by saying good-night."
"I'm very sorry, indeed; but as things stand,
I don't see my way to leaving you."
His decisive tone stung her helplessness to
*TDo you mean to say you won't go when I
28 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
wish it?" she exclaimed haughtily. "I forbid
you to come with me, I prefer to be by myself."
She stood looking in his face, her air as imperious
as her words. Oliphant had not realised till now
that she was so tall. "I forbid you!" she re-
peated. "I want to be alone."
"There's one way you can get rid of me," he
said. "Here's a policeman coming; you can
charge me with annoying you. I'll be hanged
if I'll leave you to wander about London alone,
unless you do!"
The policeman approached ponderously, his
gaze attentive. The girl resumed her course, and
Oliphant turned beside her. When she spoke
again, her voice had no resentment, and it quiv-
"I want to beg your pardon. I was ungrate-
ful. I'm ashamed of myself."
"Oh, please, Miss King!" he stammered. "I
understand so well."
"It was only because I'm so miserable."
"I know. . . . Will you let me suggest a way
out of the difficulty?"
"Oh, please do!" she cried.
"Take a room in the house where I'm staying
— for a day or two at all events. The landlady's
a good sort, and it's very cheap, or I shouldn't
be there! It will avoid all bother about yoiu-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER «9
having no luggage, and about a deposit, and the
rest of it; and you can be 'at home* in a quarter
of an hour." She was silent for a long while. "I
told you just now I was going to be as frank as
if you were my sister," he continued. "If you
were, and another man gave you such honest
advice, I should want to find him afterwards and
thank him I"
"Which is our way to Burton Crescent?" she
said cheerfully; "I forget." Oliphant glanced
at her with admiration.
By the clock at St. Pancras it was five minutes
to six as they drew near the house; they were
now walking briskly. Oliphant unlocked the
door, and letting Alma in, went to the top of the
"Mrs. Tubbsl" he called. "Mrs. Tubbs, can
I speak to you for a moment?"
A buxom little woman with rosy cheeks and
untidy grey hair bustled up to him.
"YouVe got back then?" she exclaimed. "I
thought p'raps you was spending the evening
with your friends after all."
"No," he said; "I've brought one to you, in-
stead. There's a lady in the hall — Miss King —
who wants a room."
''That there isn't!" said Mrs. Tubbs; "you're
80 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"I'm not; she meant to sleep in Alfred Place;
in fact, her luggage is there, but Well, I
know the house isn't very nice, Mrs. Tubbs, be-
tween ourselves, and I persuaded her to come
here. Mind! it's got to be cheap and ^inclusive'
— no more than you charge me."
"I'm sure. Miss, I 'ope we shall make you
comfortable," murmured the landlady, panting
along the passage. "We're in a bit of a muddle,
you know, along of Christmas Day and the girl
out, but I can soon get the room to rights for
you. Would you hke to see it. Miss?"
"Please," said Alma.
"Bless me, I'm forgetting the candle! I
couldn't very well show it you in the dark, could
I? Here, Amelia, Johnny, one of you! bring me
a candle, quick! In the prerfession. Miss, the
same as Mr. Elephant, may I ask? Have you
come up to London for long?"
"Yes, I'm an actress," said the girl; "I don't
quite know how long I shall be staying. I'm
sorry to put you to any trouble to-day."
"Oh, don't talk about ^trouble,' Miss; where
there ain't no trouble there ain't no let! I'm
sure it was fortimate as Mr. Elephant thought
to bring you. It'll be awkward your not 'aving
your things with you, won't it? But there! I
dessay you'll make shift for the night."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 81
Oliphant remained in the passage till the
arrangement was concluded and Alma and the
"YouVe settled?" he inquired. "Is it aU
"It's quite all right," answered Miss King
brightly: "I'm glad I came!"
"And if there's anything you'd fancy, Miss,"
said Mrs. Tubbs, beaming, "I'll soon 'ave it up.
A cup o' tea and a bit o' goose now?"
"I think we should like tea at last," said
Oliphant, "if you can manage it."
"If I can manage it I" she echoed. "Go on
with you! There never was such a gentleman.
Miss, for fearin' to put anybody out. Your fire's
in, Mr. Elephant, though I was just beginning to
think I wouldn't make it up again, as more than
likely yoiu* friends was keeping you."
"I wish they would, Mrs. Tubbs," he said.
"Well, I expect Miss King will be glad to sit
"What ^friends'?" asked Alma, as they
moimted to the first floor. "I thought you said
you'd nowhere to go?"
"I hadn't; but I didn't like to own it to her.
She thought I'd gone to dine with some relations.
What have you seen?"
"I've seen my room. It will do very well."
88 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"Well, I'll show you some more," he said.
He displayed a drawing-room. It was not
luxurious, but it boasted a high mirror over the
mantel-shelf, and a sideboard supporting an-
other. The furniture was upholstered in bright
blue rep, and the fire leapt cheerfully.
"Is this yours?" she exclaimed, astonished.
"Oh no! 'Mine* is a bedroom the size of a cup-
board. But I pay eight shillings a week, and it
affords me the 'use' of this, and tea and toast
twice a day. The goose this evening will be an
"Do you mean "
"I mean that you, like me, are entitled to come
in here as often as you please — our terms include
the 'use of sitting-room.' At present we are the
only lodgers — and Mrs. Tubbs and the children
have a parlour in the basement. You may sit
here from pearly mom to dewy eve. Or you
may shun it absolutely if you choose. If you
have a preference for solitude, you can appro-
priate the dining-room. Only you won't find a
fire in there: I buy these coals myself — a hun-'
dred-weight at a time, for a shilling. If you
eventually decide upon the drawing-room, I
think it would be honourable if you owed me
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 88
She laughed. "It's extraordinary 1"
"'It is. But it happens to be a fact; I have
practically the whole house. However, I'm will-
ing to resign half of it to you if you want me
to. Into the dining-room I will never stray."
"This evening," said Miss King, "I will share
the responsibility of the 'himdred-weight.* I'll
go and take off my hat."
Oliphant stretched himself in an armchair, and
mechanically rolled a cigarette, and threw it
"Let me," he said, when she returned, "show
you the extent of your possessions! These win-
dows open on to a balcony, where Mrs. Tubbs
assures me it is pleasant to sit in summer. Not
having been here in simtmier, I cannot vouch for
it personally. Beyond, lie beautiful pleasure-
grounds enclosed by railings — ^the use of the
necessary key is also yours. To our left we have
Marchmont Street — on Saturday night a busy
thoroughfare; stalls illumined by naptha may
be found here; and the costermongers cry:
Tine 'erring! Where yer like, laidies — three
a penny!' To our right are various railway-
stations, much resorted to by such of the popula-
tion as are desirous of going somewhere else.
Behind us, if I'm not mistaken, is Mrs. Tubbs
with cold goose!"
84 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
They turned to the table, and Mrs. Tubbs said:
"Well, it ^ave cheered Mr. Elephant up to
meet an old friend, Miss, I mtist say. I haven't
'eard *im talk so much since 'e's been here. Might
I ask if you'll be taking a part at any of the
theatres, Miss? I ain't in the prerfession myself,
but I'm that interested in it, having 'ad a niece
as took to the stage — which her name was Billing,
and she called herself *Clarence,' and pretty she
was! — agoing against her father's wishes, having
quarrelled with him, and not my pore 'usband's
or mine — though us it was that she always blamed
for spoilin' her prospecks — well, I sometimes
seem to be as good as an actress in a manner of
speaking, though I'm not."
"I'm not in an engagement now," said Alma;
"I hope I shall be before long."
"No, Miss. I 'ope you'll find the tea strong
enough. She was before your time, Miss, and —
ah, well, she's gone now, pore dear, like Tubbs
himself — ^though there was a coldness between
'em to the day of her death. And pretty she was.
And might have been at the Al'ambra still but
for her father's artfulness!"
"Her father didn't approve," said Oliphant;
"and Mr. Tubbs urged her to try dressmaking
"Mr. Tubbs was the tool of Mr. Billing,"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER S6
explained the widow strenuously. "Mr. Tubbs
he approved. Me and him was both very proud
to see the girl famous-an'-that. It was *er father
as made the to-do and put 'im up to interfere —
though as fond of 'er as if she'd been 'is own —
and speaking that 'arsh she never forgot it. Mr.
Tubbs was the tool of Mr. Billing."
"I've no doubt she realised it, Mrs. Tubbs,"
said Alma; "she probably felt it in her own
"I 'ope she did, pore dear, that I do! But
lor, it'd never do to think too much about these
things, would it? Is there anything else you
fancy. Miss, or Mr. Elephant, sir? If you want
any more hot water you'll just touch the bell."
"That's quite all, Mrs. Tubbs, thank you," he
said; "we shan't want anything else. Come!"
he went on, as she withdrew; "was my recom-
mendation so bad? There's character for you!
It's 'Mrs. Willoughby' over again; still she's a
study. . . . What are you considering?"
"That I thought it startling to be crossing the
road with you this afternoon. And behold me
"A piece more toast?" he said, passing the
plate. "You evidently don't read much fiction,
or you'd know that the distracted heroine finding
peace in the stranger's rooms is the most ordinary
86 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
thing in the world. It's true this ought to be
a handsome flat, or, at least, chambers in the
Temple, but the situation is stale — ^absolutely."
"Talking of situations," she replied, "you must
tell me the story of your play. And the curtain's
going up, and you haven't given me the title 1"
"The title is The Impostor^' said Oliphant
slowly. "The curtain rises on the hall of a
country house — ^the house of the Countess of
Plynlimmon. At the back there's a staircase
leading to an oak gallery. She and two other
women are on the stage — all seated. Logs are
burning in the grate — ^twilight's gathering — the
women have been half -asleep; it's just before
tea. I try to convey the drowsiness and warmth
of the moment — it opens very naturally. Lady
Plynlimmon's nephew lounges in; Lady Maud
Elstree, her daughter, enters. The dialogue
turns on a guest there. Sir Clement Thurloe.
Fourteen years before, he cut the Guards and
disappeared; everyone believed him dead. Now
he has returned — causing an immense sensation
— and established his identity. Excuses are made
for his youthful wildness, and Society receives
him with open arms. He is reported to have been
everything in the interval, from a sheep-farmer
to a sailor before the mast. When the men return
— they've been hunting, they're in *pink' — ^he is.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 37
of course, the central figure. He speaks to Maud
diffidently; with everyone else he is at his ease,
though he refers to his unfamiliarity with a
drawing-room. It's shown that he is in love with
her, and that her mother hopes to see her marry
"Is *Maud' a good part?" inquired the actress.
"Yes, as good as his, I think. You would
look it magnificently. It isnH until the act is
nearly over that it*s sprung upon the audience
that he is an impostor; I think it should be a
big eflfect. A *Mrs. Vaughan' has arrived to see
him — of course he's on the stage alone. He says
that her intrusion here is an outrage — ^he has
given her a house, an income, a carriage! what
more does she want? She says she wants their
compact fulfilled: introductions, society, the
chance to make a brilliant match. *What's the
use of a house where nobody comes? I bore
myself to death in it I' She is an adventuress
who has been — ^who has been a friend of the real
man's in New Zealand, and expected to be made
his wife. When he died in delirium tremens, she
suggested to the protagonist that he should take
advantage of his likeness to Sir Clement Thurloe,
and her possession of a diary and letters, to
personate him. Then there's an outburst of
^Clement's' in which he cries that he wishes to
88 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
God he'd never listened to her: *I was ready
enough to take the hand, I own it! But some-
how — I don't know how it is — ^now I come to
play it out, it's different. When a fellow calls
himself my pal — when a good woman's standing
by my side — I'd give all I've stolen to be a
heggar and a gentleman again l' "
"Well?" said the audience.
"Well, the interview is interrupted by Lady
Plynhmmon's voice: 'Oh, my fan, please; I've
forgotten it!' Rhoda Vaughan insists on her
rights. 'Clement' beseeches her. She won't
budge. Lady Plynlinmion comes down the stair-
case, and the act ends with the man, as white as
death, introducing the adventuress into the home
of the aristocrat he loves."
"The 'villain' is the hero?" said Miss King.
"He isn't depicted as a hero. The world's
been against him, and he sinned when he was
worn out with struggling. He felt that he owed
Society nothing — ^that's the idea. Then he meets
"You give away the element of siuprise in
your title; still it's good. I don't see any actor-
manager playing 'Clement,' though. What is
the reason that the modem hero is supposed to
lose the S3mipathy of the audience if he isn't im-
mutably noble, while the modem heroine may
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 89
violate the Decalogue? I*m sorry ^Clement* is a
thief. Of course, he's only robbing the *Crown'?
The Crown can afford the loss, I suppose — it
won't keep the Crown awake at night. Still, a
thief is low."
''But a rogue is human. I don't defend him;
I'm not his advocate. I show his sin and his
suffering. He is essentially weak — the girl he
loves is to be won for the asking "
"You don't mean to say he actually marries
"Ah, but the temptation!" exclaimed Oliphant.
"You shaU hear."
He told her the rest when they drew to the
hearth; drifted from debate to reminiscence —
recounting, with the eager egotism that is bred
of loneliness, something of his boyhood, and re-
ceiving impressions of her own life — suggestive,
feminine — in return. He felt that she was turn-
ing the pages of his history across his shoulder;
and, though he had jestingly declared her posi-
tion here to be ordinary, it constantly surprised
him when he reflected that only a few hours
before they were both companionless, and had
never spoken to each other. The room, which
had always appeared to him depressing, had this
evening an air of gaiety and of home. Even
when they were silent, he found it fortifying to
40 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
look at her; and e^en when he did not look at
her, it was delightful to know that she was there.
At ten o'clock she rose and said good-night; but
the magic lingered with him after she had gone.
The atmosphere was for once exhilarating, and
the throb of the unexpected was in it stilL
A BEHEABSAL of the drama in which Oliphant
was to commence his siege of London had been
called for eleven o'clock the following day. He
saw Miss King for a few minutes only before he
left the house, but received her pennission to try
to recover her belongings for her. This was a
task which the threat of legal proceedings, and a
written acknowledgment of the debt, assisted him
to accomplish without much difficulty. He con-
veyed the trunk to Burton Crescent by means of
a hansom, and then walked through the muddy
streets to the Queen's Theatre.
The Queen's had recently been obtained by
an actor who was assuming the management of
a theatre for the first time. He had been a
leading man for about fifteen years now, but the
manager of only a few tours. For this produc-
tion, in which the hero's part was exceedingly
strong, he had selected the company with the
utmost care and, excepting perhaps the Villain,
42 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
there wasn't a member of it in whom he had a
rival to fear.
The stage was dark and draughty. When
Oliphant reached it nobody had come but the
prompter, who stood by a small table, over-
looking the empty orchestra and the auditorium
swathed in holland. His hands were plunged in
the pockets of his overcoat, and he shivered. He
paid small attention to the other's advent, be-
cause he was to be described on the playbills as
"Assistant Stage-manager," and Oliphant was
playing a small part. In the position that he
had filled on tour, Oliphant would have joined
him at the table; in the position that he filled
here, theatrical etiquette forbade it. He walked
up and down in the wings, and questioned for
the hundredth time if, with such a part as this,
Edmund Kean himself could have created an
The other subordinates commenced to as-
semble, and to hang about with him. They
watched the principals arrive and stroll to the
table imabashed; and tried to hear what they
talked about, and envied them their lustrous
boots, which showed that they had come in cabs.
The Villain recounted a funny incident to the
leading lady, and she laughed merrily without
having grasped the joke: his salary was under-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 48
stood to be thirty pounds a week, and she was
only beginning. Besides, the celebrated actor
under whom she had studied, and who had
obtained the engagement for her, had always
declared that her laugh was her strong point
The low comedian demanded of the prompter
when they were "going to have the floats." There
was considerable delay about this, and general
expectancy; and then the footlights ameliorated
the gloom a little, and the leading lady, who was
very charming, bent over the blaze of light in a
pretty attitude to warm her hands. The "small
part women" in the wings looked additionally
miserable, as they gazed at her, and the men
inquired irritably among themselves "why the
devil they were called for eleven." Only one, a
youth who had twenty words to deliver, affected
to be oblivious of his surroimdings. He saun-
tered to and fro, muttering and gesticulating,
stimulated by the secret thought that somebody
of importance might comment on his enthusiasm.
A little man, with a hopeless expression, crept
down to the footlights, and was greeted with
cordiality — especially by the yoimg leading lady.
He was the author. He had a roll of manuscript
in his hand, which represented the alterations he
had been urged to make at the last rehearsal.
44 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
He was wondering what further misfortunes
would befall him and his drama to-day.
Signs of impatience might be detected on the
faces of the principals also now; but the actor
who had a theatre for the first time felt it due to
himself to keep the company waiting. He strode
through the wings presently, ignoring the minor
members — ^who scattered to let him pass — and,
reaching the prompt-table, raised his hat about
half an inch.
'' 'Morning, ladies and gentlemen/' he said
curtly to the group about him. He made some
remark to the author about the weather, and
turned to the assistant stage-manager, whom he
addressed as "Mr. Mote." He was fat, and held
himself stiffly erect, endeavouring to palliate by
his carriage the loss of his figure. In manner he
was arrogant, and he had frequently the air of
swelling — as often as he wished to assert his
dignity in private, or to express emotion in a
"Clear the stage, please I" cried Mr. Mote,
clapping his hands twice. "Act two, scene one!
Sentry! Come on, Mr. — er — ^Williams, please —
Act two, scene one!"
The youth who had been immersed in study
hurried nervously to that part of the stage where
he fancied he was supposed to be pacing battle-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 46
ments bathed in moonlight; but he was not cer-
tain that he wasn't meant to be in a corridor,
looking out of a window. This lent indecision
to his movements. He said :
" *It's a fine night. How quiet it isT "
At the same moment concealed carpenters
began to hammer furiously. The youth looked
disconcerted, but nobody else took any notice.
"'How quiet it isT" repeated the assistant
stage-manager. "Enter the Colonel. 'Colonel/
please I Mr. — er — Fowler I — *How quiet it is' 1"
"I beg your pardon I" The "Colonel" rushed
forward. The rehearsal proceeded, and some of
the women in the wings f oimd chairs, and chatted
The leading lady begged the Villain to advise
her how she should "do her faint" when her lover
was sentenced to be shot; and they moved to-
gether to where there was space for him to
demonstrate his conception of a yoimg girl's
behaviour at this crisis. She confessed the fear
that she would "find that flight of steps perfectly
dreadfull" and he assured her cynically that there
were "not many actresses who would object to
be given a flight of steps to faint on." As to her
train — ^well, it was difficult to show her I But
there was a way — ^if she half -turned, and bent
so, as she collapsed, it would "fall down stage.
46 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and the picture would be excellent." The Ad-
venturess discussed her baby's first tooth, and
the danger of convulsions, with the low comedian,
who, as a family man, spoke authoritatively; and
by the side of the author, who sucked his lunbrella
handle, the Hero sat, shouting comments, and
rising from time to time to bluster with more
The humble aspirants who incurred his dis-
pleasiu*e stammered and turned pink; and one
girl, whose arm he grasped so hard that he hurt
her, in indicating the "business" that he desired,
burst into tears. Those whose ordeal was longest
were two old men. They had been in the theatres
all theii- lives, but had sunk, from the small posi-
tions that they had once attained; to-day they
were scarcely above the grade of supernumer-
aries. The younger might have been nearly
sixty, but he remained burly and rubicund; the
other, though probably not much older, appeared
to be his senior by fully a decade. In his tightly
buttoned frock-coat, painfully thin and shabby,
he was the neatest and most pathetic little figure
to be conceived, as he struggled to avoid the fiery
impatience of the Hero's rebukes. The beautiful
old face grew troubled by his eagerness to under-
stand what was required of him ; and occasionally,
as the actor stamped and bellowed, he glanced at
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 47
the spectators, as if fearing that his humiliation
must excite their ridicule.
He escaped into the wings at last, and leaning
against the wall of the scene-dock, consumed a
sandwich, which served him for his dinner, out
of a piece of newspaper.
Some hitch occurred; lines not allotted yet had
to be spoken at this juncture.
"What are we waiting for?" demanded the
Hero. "Get on, Mr. Mote, please."
Mr. Mote explained meekly that the part of
the "Lieutenant" was not cast; and there was
a few moments' consultation as to which of the
actors had better "double" it. The Hero's gaze
fell on Oliphant.
"Here, youl" he said, beckoning; "you can
Oliphant took the type-written half -sheet
among envious glances from the other "small-
part men"; and glancing at the indication at the
top, crossed the stage, and began to read.
He was surprised to find that, few as the lines
were, they gave the player scope to distinguish
himself. He was supposed to stagger on
wounded, with a tale of distant disaster, and
appeal to the "Colonel" to despatch aid to his
comrades. The performance might have no more
than the clap-trap effect of the sudden entrance
48 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and the reel down the raking-piece; or it might
be one that would rivet the attention of every
critic in the house. He saw it more fully with
every word he delivered: the chance at that point
for a break in the voice ; the effort to be strenuous,
and the exhaustion that forbade it; the horror
in the man's eyes as he described — and saw again
— the scene from which he had come I A genius
with an opportunity like this could have made
the success of the evening. He read well at sight
customarily; in his gratification he read better
than usual ; and the author, who had fallen in love
with the lines as he wrote them, ceased to suck
the handle of his umbrella, and reflected with a
pleasant smile that there were ''damn few men
in London who could equal his dialogue!''
The brief speech came to an end; the "Lieuten-
ant" swooned; and Mr. Mote called "Captain
"Where's 'Captain Harwood'?" he said, look-
"Z play 'Captain Harwood,' " said Oliphant
The hitch was repeated — ^there was renewed
consideration. It was impossible that Oliphant
could play the "Lieutenant" if he played
"Captain Harwood," for both characters had to
be on the stage at the same time.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 49
'"Well, somebody else must double the *Lieu-
tenant/ " said the Hero. "Mr. — er — ^Mortimer's
not on in this scene ; he can do it."
Oliphant looked at him in dismay.
"Would you mind letting somebody else play
'Captain Harwood' and my keeping the *Lieu-
tenant'?" he asked. "I like it much the better of
The Hero made a rather lengthy pause. It
was intended to indicate amazement at the impu-
dence of questioning his decision.
**We won't discuss which of the two you like
best, if you please," he said imperiously. "Mr.
Mortimer I Come here I . . • You'll study the
part of the 'Lieutenant' by to-morrow; Mr. Mote
will give it you. • • . Goon, Mr. — er — Ohphant;
take up your cue, please — Enter 'Captain Har-
The rehearsal was resumed, and Oliphant went
through his daily task hke an automaton. That
flash of hope was already extinguished. He
hadn't realised how great his delight had been
at the prospect opened to him imtil the speedy
disappointment revealed it. His heart felt hke
lead within him, and he was glad when he was
free to efface himself, and lament and smoke
in comparative privacy at the stage-door. But
50 THE ACTOR'MANAGER
he had to go back, to speak a single line in
The author observed his return, and went over
to him; he regretted the Hero's high-handed
arrangement, for the sake of the young man, and
chiefly for the sake of the piece. Mr. Mortimer's
performance in the new part would not be start-
ling, to judge by the stolidity he displayed in the
one he was rehearsing already.
"It was a pity you didn't keep the Xieuten-
ant,' Mr. Oliphant, I think," he remarked; "you
read it very welL"
Oliphant knew the glow that comes to every
yoimg actor when one in authority praises him.
And it was the first time he had been addressed
by the author.
"You may imagine I'm sorry; but you saw
what happened, Mr. Campbell," he said, shrug-
ging his shoulders.
"Yes; but it's a pity; you were very good
indeed. I'll speak about it afterwards and see
what can be done."
The Hero had just been murmuring noble
sentiments, which would eventually be delivered
fortissimo, and as he made his exit, the sight of
Oliphant and the dramatist together met his eye.
He stalked across to them, with a swollen chest
and distended nostrils.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 61
''What do you mean," he exclaimed, "by ap-
pealing to Mr. Campbell against me? How dare
"No, no," said the author, "he didn't. It was
I who spoke to Mr. Oliphant."
"Z am manager in this theatre," continued the
actor passionately, disregarding the explanation.
"Be good enough to understand that, Mr. Oli-
phant, once and for all! If you're not satisfied
with the part you're playing, you're not obliged
to play anything, you can resign your engage-
ment. I have said you play 'Captain Harwood,'
and that's the end of it. No, Campbell, my boy I
No, no, my boy! I can't allow that sort of thing
There was a second in which Oliphant was
tempted fiercely to answer that he did resign his
engagement, but the knowledge of the straits
that the indulgence would entail held him dumb.
Though he had been in the theatrical profession
seven years, this was his first experience of a
managerial bully like the Hero, and he was sick
with shame and rage.
His line in the ensuing act was no sooner
uttered than he left the building. He had quite
forgotten Alma King; his consciousness at the
moment was only of the part that had been torn
from him, and of the insult that he had been
fi« THE ACTOR-MANAGER
compeUed to swallow. It was when five minutes
had passed that the remembrance that he would
find her in the lodging recurred to him; and
fortified a trifie by the recollection he hastened
She was at the table in the drawing-room,
writing letters — applications for engagement. A
copy of The Stage lay near the cheap stationery
and the penny bottle of ink.
"Am I in the way?*' he said.
**Why should you be in the way? It's I who
ought to ask that. WeD?"
"Well, it isn't well I I'm angry, furious, in
the blues I" He burst out with the tale of what
had happened, and the sympathy in her face was
sweet to him as he reached the point. "If only
I could have afforded to answer the cadi" he
exclaimed; "I think I'm ashamed of myself that
"It's at times like this that poverty scalds,"
she said. "I know your feeling — I've had it so
often. But you were perfectly, perfectly right
not to throw your part up — it would have been
insane I You might have had to wait months for
another chance in town."
"I suppose you're right," said Oliphant, "that
I was right. But all the same, it's just one of
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 6S
those instances of his wisdom that a man isn't
proud to recalL"
"You're inclined to be morbid, aren't you?"
said Miss King thoughtfully. "In the way you
look at things generally? Just a little I"
He flushed. "I've never been told so before.
It's — well, I've been a good deal alone; perhaps
it's due to that, if I am."
"I think you are. . • . You look as if I had
accused you of a crime."
"You took me aback, rather. It sounds weak,
too. Do you think I'm weak?"
"I should say you are — emotional. • . . Well,
Veak' as weD then, yes I — in some ways. ... I
don't think you will be spoilt by success if you
get it. That's the greatest test of character."
"Poverty is supposed to be the greatest test,"
"Yes. But I don't believe it is. Poverty
hardens a character by degrees, but success lays
it bare in a flash. You would be very nice to
the small people, if you were a manager, I'm
sure. If you were the manager, for example, I
should receive an answer to tfew." She pointed
to one of the letters beside her.
"What is it for?" asked Oliphant; "is it any-
thing worth having?"
64 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"'It is an appeal for a second-rate part in a
fifth-rate company. If I am fortunate, I shall
play in a different town every other night, and
search for a new lodging every other day. The
advertisement concludes: ^People who can't keep
sober, save stamps 1' "
"Good heavens 1" cried the man; "you don't
mean to say you apply for those things ? They're
not addressed to you. Have you ever travelled
in a Portable?"
"No; I can imagine what it is like, though,
"But they don't want an artist. Miss King;
they don't want an actress 1 Do you know what
the audience that you would play to is like? Do
you know what the salary is like? Have you
any idea what the company is like that you'd
be with? You wouldn't be able to endure the
engagement for a fortnight if you got it."
The girl's gesture had dignity as well as weari-
"You seem to forget," she said quietly; "I
am not in a position to consider these drawbacks.
I'm here on your introduction — with only a few
shillings in the world; and I owe money at the
house I have left. I'm not afraid your landlady
would turn me out in a week's time — or even in
a month's: she trusts me — and you! But what
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 66
kind of woman should I be if I took advantage
of your introduction and her confidence?"
''I don't suggest you should take any advan-
tage at alL There's such a thing as being too
conscientious. It would be too conscientious if
you hampered your career rather than accept a
few weeks' credit, or a friend's help. As a matter
of fact, it makes no difference to Mrs. Tubbs
whether she gets her rent every Monday or every
month; she doesn't depend on letting lodgings —
if she did, she'd be in the workhouse! She has
some share in a business that her brother has;
he's an upholsterer in Mabledon Place,"
"I shan't take such an engagement if I can
get an ordinary one quickly, you may be sure,"
she said; "it will have to be my sole resource.
But I know the meaning of 'duty' 1 — it's my duty
to sacrifice my interests and pay. I've never
done anything I knew to be wrong in my life.
Oh, I don't forget I let a stranger speak to me
yesterday — and I can't complain if you think it
wasn't the first time! — and I asked him in to my
room; and it was a mistake that I shall regret
to the day I die. But it wasn't wrong. And you
know it wasn't *wrong'; and God knows there
was no more of *wrong' in my heart when I
opened that door to you than if we had both been
children. I regret it — I always shall — ^but I'm
66 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
not ashamed of it; if I were ashamed, I'm afraid
my goodness would go altogether, and I couldn't
livel I'm not going to despise myself now and
be a coward, and contemptible, rather than
*hamper my career,' as you put it,"
"I won't urge you to do anything you're
opposed to," responded Oliphant slowly, after a
moment had passed. "But you've said one thing
I want to answer; it meant you couldn't complain
if — if I were ignorant enough to think lightly of
you. I should like you to hear me say that I
respect you more than any woman I've ever
The subject of her endeavours was not re-
sumed till the morrow, when he was leaving for
the Queen's. Then she announced an intention
of calling again on all the dramatic agents who
had her name on their books ; and he walked some
part of the way to the Strand beside her.
The thought of what doubtless awaited her
in these oflSces, towards which scores of other
women, equally avid of employment, were hurry-
ing from all quarters of London at the same
time, forbade boldness to them both, an^jL Oli-
phant parted from her with small expectation
of hearing good news when they met at tea.
His haste to escape from the theatre the pre-
vious afternoon had left him uncertain at what
hour the rehearsal would commence this morning,
but glancing at the call-board as he entered the
passage, he found that he had guessed correctly.
The Hero, however, was already on the stage,
and it was immediately evident that his resent-
ment was not forgotten. He stalked across to
the young man without delay, his chest and
nostrils expanded to their fullest capacity.
"Oh — er — I shan't want you for the piece at
all, Mr. Ohphant," he said haughtily. "Give
your part back to Mr. Mote, please 1 You — er —
aren't tall enough."
There was no written agreement; Oliphant
had been engaged, as hundreds of actors and
actresses are engaged every year, by word of
mouth. Even if it had been otherwise, he could
not have afforded to test the legality of the
reprisal. He was dismissed — because the author
had condoled with him on the Hero's auto-
cracy. "Nothing happens but the unforeseen*':
the actor had left the lodging to attend a re-
hearsal, expecting to draw two pounds a week
during the run of the play; the actress had left
it, despondent, to make the round of the agents.
The man returned without a prospect; and the
girl came back with an "offer."
She was offered an engagement to go to South
Africa. The manager, who had come to London
for the purpose of organising a company, had
been in the second office that she entered — ^had
noticed her, asked the agent her name, and
concluded the arrangement on the spot. At
rehearsals she would have to prove herself com-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 69
petent; but on this point she had no misgivings,
and she was overjoyed.
"It was the purest chancel" she cried. "He
has been here a fortnight, and Ash has never
mentioned him to me — or me to him. If I had
been five minutes later, he'd have gone, and I
shouldn't even have known I had missed an
opportunity. But, of course, I shall have to
pay Ash his commission just the same — it was
in his oflSce." She paused inquiringly. "Is any-
thing the matter?" she asked. "Has it been un-
pleasant again to-day?"
Oliphant told her briefly what had occurred.
What could she say? The first effect of sjrm-
pathy is to weight the sympathiser's tongue, and
the second is to render her self-conscious. "I
am so sorry," murmured Miss King — and heard
the echo of the vapid answer for ten seconds.
"What shall you do?" she continued.
"I must look for something else."
"Oh yes, in London; at all events in London
as yet. I want to get in, I want to get in! The
stage-doors are stouter than the starling's bars.
But I've been hurling myself against them too
long to turn away and pretend the grapes are
sour now. They're sweet. Miss King, they're
luscious, and my mouth's watering for them I"
60 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"You might come back to the charge all the
stronger for a rest,** she suggested.
"Yes, and all the older — don't forget that, I
left the provinces swearing that I'd get a hearing
here, I've applied everywhere. I've tramped
the streets, and worn out my boots, and the
sinews of war are reduced to shillings: I'm not
going to feel that all that has been thrown away
while I've my health and a watch and chain.
London owes me for the energy I've expended.
And one of these days it's going to pay me for
it — with compound interest. If I returned to
the provinces now, I should feel that I had made
a bad debt, and the thought that I'd made a
bad debt would make me a bad actor, and if I
were a bad actor, I should have no excuse for
existing in this overcrowded world at all I If
I'm not an actor, I'm nothing, and This
isn't strength of character, it's hysteria, to be
perfectly truthful; I don't suppose I could get a
provincial engagement before the spring if I
"Haven't you any friends?"
"Haven't I any friends?" he repeated medita-
tively. "Well, I've relations; I go to see them
occasionally — when I've a new suit of clothes.
Thej" aren't in the profession — ^nor in England,
at the present time — so we needn't take them
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 61
into account. But, yes, I have a friend — I've
an extraordinary friend — I've a friend who, I
honestly believe, would lend me a thousand
pounds if I asked him for it."
She looked to see if he was serious. "Is this
"No, this is a sober fact. I was at Oxford
with him and we were very chummy. He had
leanings towards literature, and every qualifica-
tion for embracing it, including the most im-
portant — it didn't matter to him in the least if
he never made it pay. He was worth about ten
thousand a year when he was nine years old.
We haven't met very often lately, but I'm bound
to admit that that's entirely my fault. When I
do dine with him, I find him as good a fellow as
ever he was. I should be very fond of him if he
hadn't untold wealth like the prince in a fairy
tale; I struggled with the ten thousand a year,
but the accumulations of his minority were the
"You don't expect me to believe that, of
course?" she said.
"Why not — does it sound petty? Perhaps I
didn't express myself very well; I mean we
should still be pals if he weren't so rich. Two
men whose lives are antithetical can't be very
*pally,' you know. A very rich man and a very
est THE ACTOR-MANAGER
poor one may like each other extremely — they
may find each other very estimable and interest-
ing — ^but they can't find each other so companion-
able as if they were both flush, or both beggars.
Otho Fairbaim keeps racehorses, and — and is a
dear good fellow. But I find it difficult to keep
myself; and though weVe points in common, I'm
perfectly aware that by the time weVe finished a
cigar each, he begins to feel the evening would
be livelier if he'd asked a ^chappie' who was going
down to Kempton, too, next day. Abstractions
palL I can talk to you much more freely than
I can to Fairbaim, though I've known him for
years. . . . Tell me — you go to the Cape with a
repertoire, of course. What are the pieces?"
She named them — one was running at a West
End house. "I'm to go to see it; I shall write
in to-day. If you like I'll ask for two seats, and
we might go together."
"I'd like it very much; I was thinking of writ-
ing in myself. What line are you playing?"
"Oh, lead," she said.
"Oh yes, I'm engaged for lead; and the parts
are excellent, aren't they? It will be splendid
experience, too, with a repertoire. It's a good
thing I have my trunk; but even as it is • • .
I have to find the modem wardrobe myself , you
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 68
know I Still I shall be all right for the first fort-
night, and I can get one or two frocks in Cape
She did not mention what her salary was to be,
though; and in view of the circumstances, and
her general frankness, the peculiarity of the
reservation struck Oliphant as forcibly as if he
were again a novice. He remembered living with
an actor years before and listening to his domestic
anxieties imtil three o'clock in the morning and
there was nothing the actor hadn't communicated
when the tour came to an end excepting how
much a week he received. Past salaries were
quoted; and there were confidences about his
mother's intemperance and the shortcomings of
his wife; but his "terms" of to-day were tacitly
understood to be a sacred matter.
With this single exception — ^the only profes-
sional trait he had observed in her — Miss King
was candour personified. The tickets for the
theatre arrived, **With the acting manager's
compliments," and she and Oliphant spent an
evening in the dress-circle. Both enjoyed it. To
be able to lounge in a velvet f auteuil in evening
dress, when he can ill afford the sixpence for the
programme, is the one advantage that the actor
out of work possesses over the rest of the un-
employed. His dinner may have been a sausage.
64 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and for supper nothing may await him at all;
but a draught of oblivion is, at least, permitted
him by the kindly etiquette of "the profession" ;
and many a hopeless heart has been fortified
Yet it is tantalising, sometimes maddening.
Sometimes it fills the breast of the actor out of
work with such longings that he wrings his hands
with desire — this view, from the Delectable
Mountains, of the Celestial City whose gates are
closed. Oliphant enjoyed the performance — ^to
watch good acting gave him as keen a delight as
a musician derives from a superb instrumentalist;
but to him the pleasure of the evening was alloyed
by the craving that assailed him in the entr'actes.
To Miss King there was no alloy. The girl fore-
saw herself in the part of the favourite actress
whom she had come to study and to criticise; and
it was almost like witnessing her own success.
She sat recalling the "business," debating
whether it could be improved, and thrilling with
the anticipation of delivering certain lines.
The epoch of the drama was admirably
adapted to her. She seemed created to wear the
robes of a bygone age — almost any bygone age —
and move among great deeds. She would have
looked lovely as Juliet, which she wanted to play ;
as Hypatia, which she hadn't thought of, she
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 66
would have been ideal; the intense earnestness
of the part was there in her face, Oliphant was
again conscious of this when they left the theatre,
and turned homeward through the wet streets.
He was also conscious that not one woman in a
hundred, trembling with thanksgiving, would
have divined his mood and troubled to assuage
it by the first remark she made:
"I daresay you'll be playing there one day!**
"I?" he exclaimed.
"I daresay. If you were as sure of your future
as I am, you'd be happier."
"How shall I define? You're an enthusiast —
there aren't so many of them in our profession!
But it isn't that either — I suppose enthusiasts fail
too. You impress me with the idea that you'll
succeed, and I've never had the conviction about
any one else. If I've been curious about people
at all, it has been to wonder why on earth they
ever took to the stage."
"Because it's the laziest life."
"Say it may be; don't you study?"
"Oh, I do; but have you been on many tours
where the people did?"
"Of course one can take it easy, if one likes,
now there are no more stock companies. It
couldn't have been very *lazy' in the old days
66 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
when one had to master three or four parts a
week. Those were the times to make actresses —
when one sat up all night studying with a wet
towel round one's head! when one was Lady
Macbeth on Monday, and Lady Gay Spanker on
Tuesday, Ah, heavenly times! Yes, to people
who don't work at home it is the laziest life now,
I suppose — during an engagement; they're fairly
busy when they're ^resting,' What are you going
to try for to-morrow?"
"I'm going to try to see Townsend," he said.
"You know they are producing a piece of his at
the West Central I once went out in cMie of his
things; and he rehearsed the company. He was
kind enough to think me good."
"Will he remember you?"
"An author never remembers anything except
his grudge against the critic who gave him a bad
notice, but I shall remind him who I am. I hear
they have only engaged the principals so far, and
the first call is for twelve o'clock to-morrow. I
mean to waylay him as he goes in."
To waylay a man as he goes in; to scheme for
an introduction to another who doesn't want to
know you; to submit to rudeness, and disguise
privation under well-cut clothes; to smile in the
Strand and break your heart in private, are the
essential preliminaries to success on the stage.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER fft
unless you have money, or your father was a
Miss Eang was rehearsing in a large room over
a public-house in Covent Garden, and after
accompanying her there next day, Oliphant
proceeded to his destination. The stage-door of
the West Central was in a narrow court not more
than five minutes distant, and he reached it too
early. Rather than incur the risk of missing the
dramatist, though, he remained; and casting
eager glances in the direction in which the man
must come, endeavoured to persuade himself that
he was hopeful. To be hopeful is to wear a
cheerful expression, and a cheerful expression is
valuable to the apphcant for f avoiu-s.
When Mr. Townsend appeared he was walk-
ing at a swift pace. He passed Oliphant without
any sign of recognition, and, hastening after him,
the young man said diffidently:
"Mr. Townsend I"
"Eh? Yes; what is itr
"You don't remember me; my name's Royce
Oliphant; I played * Albert Kenyon' in Don
Qvixote of Belgravia — the Number 1 Com-
"Oh y-e-s, yes. How d'ye do, Mr. Oliphant?"
"Is there any part open in this? I should be
68 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
immensely glad to get a chance at the West
"I'm afraid the cast is complete. You — er —
might drop me a reminder when the tour starts.
I'm afraid there's nothing open in the produc-
"Not a small part? To come to tovm I'd take
The author mused.
"Well, there's a— I don't know; I'll see. It's
just possible that I can offer you something. You
might wait a second, wiU you?"
He plunged into the gloomy entrance, and
clattered down the stairs. And a quarter of an
hour went by.
When he emerged he was with the stage-
manager. Oliphant's momentary expectation,
however, faded into blankness as he saw that Mr.
Townsend had forgotten all about him. He
stopped him again:
"Eh? Oh, yes, yes. I have to go roimd to
the front with Mr. Bensusan now. I'll see you
when I come back. Don't go away; I shan't be
The actor made a cigarette, and stood before
the door like a sentinel. An hour passed. He
would have liked to sit down, but there was no-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 69
where to sit. Two hours passed — two hours and
a half. Still Mr. Townsend did not return. In
desperation at last Oliphant went in search of
him. At the box-office it was believed that he
would be found at lunch in the restaurant across
the road; and he was discovered eating oysters.
He looked up as Oliphant approached him.
"Oh — oh, Mr. Oliphant! yes, of course I I
mentioned the matter to Mr. Bensusan ; but there
are wheels within wheels, you know, my boy I —
I can't work it. I'm sorry."
"It can't be helped," said Oliphant. "Thanks
for doing what you could."
He turned away, and paused among the tur-
moil of the Strand, considering what to try for
next. The odour of the restaurant lurked in his
nostrils enticingly, and a passing omnibus threw
a clot of mud in his face.
A FEW days later Miss King sailed for the
Cape. She had contrived to discharge her debt
to Mrs. Tubbs — probably by the sacrifice of
something from her tnmk: Oliphant did not hear
how the payment was accomplished — ^and the
widow deplored her departure on every occasion
that she appeared with the remaining lodger's
tea and toast.
Oliphant missed the girl too — ^more than he
would have believed was possible considering how
brief a time she had lived there. He felt lonelier
than ever now when he returned to the empty
drawing-room after tramping the pavements in
vain. It is one of the painful features of the
theatrical life that the friends of to-day are so
often strangers to-morrow; every tour sees inti-
macies formed among people who, after the com-
pany is disbanded, may not meet one another
again for years. But Miss King had been met in
an unusual way, and in this case his own environ-
ment remained the same. Its sameness empha-
sised her absence, and lent a pathos to it.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 71
It was about a week after their farewell that
something imlooked for happened — something
that promised to alter the whole complexion of
his affairs. A letter lay on his hot-water can
one morning, and a letter was sufficiently rare
for him to open it with eagerness. When he had
read it his eyes sparkled, and the attic looked
lovelier. London had a heart after all, and he
could hear it beating. London was human ! The
agent with whom he had left The Impostor wrote
that he could place it for immediate production
at a West End house. The percentage offered
was very fair in view of the author's obscurity;
and a hundred pounds, on account of fees, would
be paid when the contract was signed. Oliphant
was asked to reply at once, stating whether he
was prepared to accept the terms. He stood
still and laughed.
Yes, he was "prepared"! His hands shook as
he dressed. He would reply in person. That
the drama had been accepted three times already
and that three contracts for it had been broken,
did not damp his exhilaration, for the offer of
money on account showed that business was
meant, and besides, the production was to be
"immediate." For once he left Burton Crescent
buoyantly. Like the attic, the familiar windows
of Marchmont Street had an unfamiliar air. The
7« THE ACTOR-MANAGER
confectioner's which had recently appeared to
mock him with its display of miattainable short-
bread decorated with New Year's greetings in
citron and sugar-plmns — the little toy-shop,
lower down, where he bought his papers — the
oranges and tomatoes, and apples and chestnuts,
on a stall under the tarpaulin — everything smiled
to him to-day; he contemplated the landmarks
with affection. Even the Strand — though he
could never love the Strand — ^he was able, at
least, to forgive. He remembered the sufferings
it had inflicted without resentment. He had got
the better of the Strand at last!
What a good fellow was the agent! though he
had never struck him in that light before. How
difficult, as the briUiant details were imparted,
to disguise that the thing appeared incredible,
something too marvellous to be true. "Clement"
was to be played by Herbert Rayne, who hoped
to obtain a lease of the Dominion. Herbert
Rayne would be excellent as "Clement." And
he had a reputation — the part of the hero was
in first-rate hands. Would Oliphant meet him
here on the morrow at, say, one o'clock? Yes,
he would not fail; it was an appointment. His
blood bubbled in his veins as he proposed a drink.
There was a flicker of feeble sunlight on the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 78
puddles when they stood outside, and he saw a
blaze that dazzled him.
How charming was Herbert Rayne when the
interview took place and signatures were written I
How novel it was to be deferred to by a popular
actor, with astrakhan on his overcoat, and to
discuss with him the qualifications of other popu-
lar actors! What did the author think of Miss
Proctor for "Lady Maud"? The author, aston-
ished at his boldness, confessed that he had
always thought Miss Proctor lacked sympathy.
Rayne agreed with him — she did. And she asked
thirty pounds a week, which was absurd. He
suggested somebody else, and they walked down
the Strand together arm in arm. And they were
seen by two persons to whom Oliphant was
known I He was mortal and the fact gratified
"You're an actor yourself, Mr. Oliphant, eh?"
said Rajme. "How about playing in the piece?"
"I don't think so, thanks," laughed the young
man; "I shall be nervous enough as it is!"
"It would be good business for you — author's
fees and a salary too! But, of course, you're
right; it'd be a mistake. I think I shall be able
to get the Dominion — I shall know this week.
I've made them a fair offer. The rent they ask
is a hundred and fifty, but that's all pickles!"
74 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
No longer compelled to husband the few
sovereigns that remained from the loan on his
Watch and chain, Oliphant proposed luncheon,
and Rayne did not decline the invitation. On
the contrary, he declared there was only one place
to lunch at, and that was Dolibo's.
"It's the best cooking in London, I say; and
then it saves time — as everybody goes there, one
meets aU the people one has to see. I must intro-
duce you to Ravioli."
So they jumped into a hansom, and drove to
Dolibo's; and Oliphant was duly introduced to
ravioli, which he had presumed was a composer,
but which turned out to be a mess that tasted of
nothing but the tomatoes. Nevertheless it was
a delightful day. And the fact that the agent,
after deducting the amount of the commission,
had given him a crossed cheque, was the only
alloy to his satisfaction.
Rayne's confidence was justified and the Do-
minion was secured. There were various hopes
that were not fulfiUed — either the salaries asked
were prohibitive, or it was found that the artists
would not be disengaged soon enough. The
"Lady Maud" on whom Oliphant had set his
heart was attacked by pleurisy three days before
the date of the first rehearsal, and in her place
was Miss Blanche EUerton, whom he had never
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 76
seen, and who was by comparison unknown. The
morning arrived, however, when the company
assembled at the theatre to hear Royce Oliphant
read his play.
He arrived early. It was at this period his
constant endeavom* to avoid all the faults and
affectations that he had execrated in others. He
had rendered himself rather a nuisance by the
earnestness of his attempts to obtain smaU parts
for his acquaintances, who, from the moment the
earliest announcement was made, besieged him
with written and oral reminders of their exist-
ence. That he had not succeeded in a single
instance was due to circumstances that he could
not help; but the failure troubled him, and he
had felt that his explanations must sound as
hollow to his former colleagues as the explana-
tions of his present associates had hitherto ap-
peared to himself. He arrived early.
The others were before him, though. A semi-
circle of chairs had been formed on the stage, as
if in readiness for a minstrel entertainment; and
facing it, under the T-piece, was the one reserved
for himself. Mr. Rayne made several remarks
to him, which he believed he answered : he had the
vaguest idea of their tenor. He noted a pretty,
fair girl, who wore a feather boa, lifting attentive
eyes to him, and hoped she could act. He saw
76 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
the manuscript and a glass of water on the
prompt-table, and shivered as the patient at the
dentist's shivers at the sight of the forceps. He
approached the prompt-table — and put his um-
brella on it! He had touched the apex.
"Good-morning, ladies and gentlemen," he
said, in a voice that he didn't recognise.
The remembrance assailed him that more than
one of these people to whom he was about to
read bore names that were household words
among playgoers, and he tiuned suddenly giddy.
He wished that Rayne had not known he was
an actor, for he was certain he should read Uke
an amateur of the worst kind. He fumbled with
the leaves of the manuscript, and cleared his
throat, and sipped the water.
''The Impostor/' he began.
He dashed into the stage-directions, which
gave him a moment to accustom himself to the
situation ; and he gabbled them vilely. It seemed
to him five minutes — in reality it was less than
thirty seconds — before he had his voice under
control at all. His predominant and paralysing
thought was that everybody would be bored to
death hours before he had finished.
To read a play well is an achievement of which
very few are capable; for to read a play well
means to render perhaps fifteen parts, and the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER TT
more thoroughly one character may be realised,
the more difficult it becomes to change instan-
taneously to the next. When the reader is the
author too, sensitive to each jnovement of every
member of his audience, strained to sickness with
the double responsibiUty, the ordeal is beyond
description. It was twelve o'clock when Oh-
phant sat down; it was four o'clock when, after
three brief intervals, he closed the covers of the
last act. During two hours he knew that he had
done the best of which he was capable. He
looked up at the girl with the feather boa, and
he saw that to her thinking, at all events. The
Impostor spelt success.
There was a hum of congratulation. Every-
body had a smile; the girl exclaimed feehngly,
"Oh, it's beautiful 1" And an elderly woman,
who, OUphant assumed was cast for "Lady
Plynlimmon," said with quiet authority, "The
play is sure — oh, surel" at which Rayne looked
Then there were introductions, and more flat-
tering conmients made. And at last, not quite
certain whether he was awake or in a dream,
OUphant escaped to gulp the air, after hearing
that everyone was expected at twelve again the
It might be imagined that the rehearsals would
78 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
prove no novelty to him, but they were astoiind-
ingly new. Familiar things were all at once pre-
sented to him in a fresh light — ^just as light had
been shed already on Mr. Townsend's behaviour
at the West Central. A rehearsal here was as
diflFerent from the rehearsals to which he was
used — as diflFerent from a rehearsal at the
Queen's, for example — as the captain's impres-
sion of the voyage is from a passenger's.
Hitherto his sole anxiety had been his own per-
formance — ^now he was anxious about everyone's;
and, too diflident to puU up the artists publicly
in order to obtain the inflections he desired, his
brain swam in trying to remember the thousand-
and-one suggestions he wanted to make to them
in private. He was harassed day and night by
the remembrance of warnings about something
which somebody had felt it "only right" to utter.
He was drawn aside by "Lady Plynlinmion" to
be cautioned that the stage-management was
ruining her most important scene; Voysey, the
stage-manager, informed him that his refusal to
have incidental music was going to "damn the
show" ; and Rayne came down to the theatre one
morning with the opinion that the "hero was an
unmitigated blackguard." Even when the inci-
dental music was conceded, it was not the end of
the matter. OUphant derived his principal com-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 79
pensation from watching the rehearsals of the
girl with the feather boa, who had proved to be
Blanche £llerton« Though she was not more
than three or four and twenty, her performance
promised to be admirable — ^in fact, she was an
ideal "Maud/* Her giplishness was so "natural,*'
her pathos was so unforced, that she delighted
him. So when she turned to him one day in
excitement and despair, he was ready to take
her side before he had heard what her grievance
"Oh, Mr. Oliphant," she exclaimed, "please,
please tell Mr. Voysey that that awful number
they play through my soliloquy won't do I It
kills it. I simply can't act if they play it. The
situation wants something plaintive, and Mr.
Van Putten has written a jig!"
Oliphant hadn't remarked the incongruity, and
"Well, ask him to let you hear it. Will you?
"Certainly I will," he answered; "I'U ask him
The conductor was sitting by the piano at the
opposite comer of the stage, and Oliphant went
over to him.
"Mr. Van Putten," he said, "I wish you'd let
80 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
me hear one of the numbers youVe written. Do
''ZkyV said the conductor coldly. He inquired
which number it was.
Miss EUerton joined them. "Number three/'
"Ha, ha!" said Mr. Van Putten; "dee lady
find zomeding wrong mid it, yes? Ha, ha! Zir,
I 'ave gombosed dee music for all dee brincibal
deatres in London; but dee gombany knows best,
ain't it? Zo, I viU bky it!"
He did. In describing it as a "jig" the actress
had exaggerated, but not more wildly than was
pardonable in the artistic temperament.
"It's very fine," said Oliphant; "yes, thank
you. Still, I fancy that for the situation some-
thing a little slower would be better; it doesn't
quite fit the lines. Perhaps you've noticed it
"What's the matter?" demanded Mr. Voysey.
"Dee audor and dee lady gomblain of dee
Without any premonitory symptoms Mr. Voy-
sey exploded. The conductor posed resignedly,
with the oflFending number drooping from his
hand. The rehearsal was stopped, and a heated
argument continued for five minutes. Rayne
agreed with everybody all at once.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 81
"It's Miss Ellerton's scene," repeated Oli-
phant, "and if she doesn't feel the number it
ought to be changed. We can't sacrifice the
actress to the incidental music!"
"Oh, that's enough, Mr. Oliphantl" cried the
stage-manager. "All right, aU right, all right!
I've had thirty-five years' experience in the pro-
fession, but I'm always ready to learn. Produce
the piece your way! I may as well go home, as
I don't know my business."
However, he picked up the manuscript again
at the same moment. Miss Ellerton had gained
her point, and the rehearsal was resumed.
"You got me into nice trouble," Oliphant said
to her by and by.
"Oh, it was so good of you!" she answered
radiantly. "But wasn't it hideous? It set one's
teeth on edge."
"It was a trifle weird," he agreed.
"You don't know how grateful I am! I
couldn't, I simply couldn't have acted to that
ghastly noise. . . . Have you seen the boy any-
**Do you want anything?"
"I want him to fetch me a bim. I'm famished,
and we shan't get away till five if we're going
through the last act."
"Let me go for you. What shall I bring?"
8« THE ACTOR-MANAGER
**Will you? Oh, just a bun, please; that's alL
Thanks awfully r
So he brought a box of cakes from a neigh-
bouring confectioner's, and she handed it round
to the other women, and then came back to offer
it again to him. She stood beside him in the
wings, eating chocolate eclairs, and discussing
the frocks she was to wear in the part. She was
pretty enough to be attractive, even while she
ate a chocolate eclair.
When the Wednesday dawned for which the
dress-rehearsal was fixed, Oliphant rose in a state
of tension which he knew was to continue for
thirty-six hours — ^until the curtain fell the follow-
ing night on the production. His remembrance
of these thirty-six hours was always vague. A
salient feature was Mr. Voysey's silk hat at the
back of his head, as he stood, on Wednesday
morning, doing nothing anxiously in the centre
of "Lady Plynlimmon*s" hall; the brilliantly-
lighted scene, in which he was the solitary figure,
and the gloom of the auditorium formed a strik-
ing contrast. There was a sprinkling of curious
strangers in the stalls. And when the rehearsal
began at last, everything went wrong — every-
thing except the performance of Miss Ellerton.
Even Rayne was not so good as the author had
expected him to be ; and others did not know their
parts; and terrible omissions were discovered
which could never be remedied in time. At five
o'clock, when Oliphant went back to Burton
Crescent, he was bowed with despondence.
84 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
Thursday drew towards dusk tardily. He had
strolled about the streets till he was tired, and,
still too restless to sit down, he now paced the
drawing-rocxn, staring with strained eyes at the
darkening enclosure beyond the windows. He
thought that he wanted scHnebody — anybody —
to talk to; but when Mrs. Tubbs brought in the
inevitable tea and toast, her chatter drove him
to the verge of frenzy.
"I suppose you can't help thinking about it,
Mr. Elephant," she said, '"and being a bit worried
like? Well, you're fine and large on the bills,
that you are I Mrs. Johnson she was saying only
yesterday — ^you've heard me speak o' Mrs. John-
son? — the lady as does your washing — she was
saying only yesterday she never see a strikinger
bill in her life; and she's what you may call a
reg'lar playgoer, mind yerl Is it a laughable
"No," he said huskily; ""it isn't meant to be
comic. I don't think I want any tea, thank you."
"Lor, you must eat a bit — whatever are you
talking about! I suppose if it takes, you'll be
making a lot o' money, won't you? I do wonder
you ain't acting in it yourself — seems so strange.
Mrs. Johnson she was asking me which of the
parts you took, and when I said you hadn't got
nothin' to do with it, she was that surprised!
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 86
Well, me and her '11 both be there, anyhow; I
give her a ticket, and we mean to clap like one
o'clock, / can tell yer!"
"For heaven's sake," he exclaimed agitatedly,
"don't go clapping all by yourselves! Don't,
I beg you!" The toast choked him, and it was
necessary to obtain a respite. "I'll go and dress,"
"Better 'ad," said Mrs. Tubbs; "Mrs. Johnson
she 'as took especial pains with your shirt — ^you'll
find it at the top of the parcel. / know the sink-
ing you've got, Mr. Elephant — 'aving 'ad it my-
self. Never shall I forget the night as 'er as is
gone left this very 'ouse to make her first appear-
ance before the public, with me and 'er uncle
a-foUowin' of her, a mask o' perspiration in the
bus! And the talent o' that gal was astonishin',
though little more than showing of 'erself o£F
'ad she got to do. And if it 'adn't been that Mr.
Tubbs was the tool of Mr. Billing, it's at the
Al'ambra or somewhere she'd 'ave "
The quiet and coolness of the bedroom was
refreshing. By maddening degrees another hour
crept by. Presently it wasn't ridiculous to con-
sider starting for the theatre. He had intended
to take a hansom, as befitting the occasion, but
suddenly he preferred to walk. He did not mean
to go behind the scenes until after the perf orm-
86 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
ance; to show himself earlier would be only to
increase the nervousness of the company. In the
Strand he had a liqueur of brandy, and bought
a cigar, and consulted his watch, which he had
taken out of pawn, a dozen times.
The crowd outside the pit and gallery was
large — ^he wondered with a pang how many
orders it might represent. The people surged
forward as he speculated on the point, and a
flood of light was cast upon the pavement from
the centre doors, which opened noisily and dis-
played the foyer. The commissionaire who
opened them was very tall and fat, and his but-
tons shone; Oliphant noticed that. The gleam
of the acting-manager's shirt-front, and the blue
scarf over the head of an early arrival in a four-
wheel cab, also impressed him, like the artificial
redness of a bank of roses at the foot of a gilt
looking-glass when he entered. There was a tele-
gram for him in the box-office, and it slipped
from his fingers three times before he mastered
it. It ran : "I'm drinking your health. Heartiest
wishes for a thundering success to-night — Otho.'*
It was sent from Paris. At the top of the stairs
he handed it to the programme-girl instead of
his ticket, and tried to smile when the mistake
was pointed out; his lips felt very stiflF.
He sat in the dress-circle, and listened to the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 87
clatter of feet overhead, as the gallery-patrons
stumbled down the wooden steps. After an
eternity, when the orchestra appeared, and the
first preliminary scrape of a fiddle wnmg his
heart, he understood the sickness of the soul
which so often prevents a dramatist attending
the production of his play. Hitherto he had
ridiculed it; now he understood. Momentarily
he entertained the idea of going away, but a
feeling of physical weakness, as much as curi-
osity, held him chained.
The stalls were rapidly filling, and occasionally
there was the sharp rattle of rings, as an attend-
ant preceded a party into a private box. Mr.
Van Putten emerged; he settled his coat-tails.
He tapped with the baton, and collected eyes.
The orchestra emitted a feeble wail. It grew
louder; it acquired time, and tune; it culminated
in a crash. The author gripped the arms of his
chair — and the curtain rose.
The scene glowed before him as it had done
yesterday; the women were there — and they
spoke; so much he knew. Whether they spoke
the lines well, or whether they spoke the words
that he had written, he did not know in the
least. He thought that if the actresses' nervous-
ness had equalled his own they would have been
tongue-tied; but they had — as he had always
88 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
had till now — the stimulus of the footlights. . . .
Gradually his mind became acuter; he waited
for an inflection, and looked for the next "en-
trance." It was "Maud's"; God! was Maud
" 'Maud is here, mother; and very impatient
Ah! she was on the staircase — she came down
it slowly, her finger-tips trailing the balustrade.
How graceful she was ! How charming a figure,
as she smiled across the table! . • • There was
a ripple of laughter as "Lady Plynlimmon" let
fall an epigram with an air of unconsciousness
that gave it twice its point. . . . Rayne — look-
ing very handsome in "pink" — was welcomed en-
thusiastically. ... To find that "Sir Clement"
wasn't Sir Clement at all startled the audience
as it was meant to do, and an audible stir ran
through the theatre. The author's agitation had
a throb of enjoyment in it now; yesterday's
blunders were avoided — ^the piece was going
without a hitch!
He did not go to smoke in the interval; nor
in the next. He sat longing to grip Rayne and
everybody else by the hand. He had misjudged
Rayne! The whole company was doing valiant
work, and the applause had been of the warmest
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 89
The act-drop went up for the third time, and
"Maud" and the man who called himself Sir
Clement Thurloe were "discovered" on the anni-
versary of their wedding-day. Rayne and Miss
EUerton were both excellent here. His hunger
for the love of the wife whom he had bought by
his fraud, and her own awakening tenderness,
were depicted admirably. Soon her dislike of
"Mrs. Vaughan" — ^the man's embarrassment
when questioned — fanned a mistaken fear to
jealousy. The girF^ voice as she turned to "Lady
Plynlimmon" with the cry of "Mother I You'
made me marry him — tell me if it's true I"
brought Oliphant's heart into his throat. She
was displaying an intensity that astonished even
him. For the end of the act — the whirlwind
of despair — ^he relied on Rayne. But another
scene had to come first: the "scene of the two
women," when "Maud" declined to receive "Mrs.
Vaughan," and the adventuress, in retaliation,
flung the truth in her hostess's face and told her
that she was the wife of an impostor. The scene
came which was to be made or marred by Miss
And now she held the house; and Oliphant
worshipped her. The girl who had eaten choco-
late eclairs, and talked theatrical slang in the
wings, bore herself like a queen. Every word
90 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
she uttered, every quiver of the proudly-set
lips, struck a chord in his own being. His life
seemed a part of her — ^to flutter with her breath.
The act — ^the play — ended somehow; he thought
of no one but her.
He fancied there was a cry of "Author" when
he made his way *T)ehind" after the curtain fell
The artists were all on the stage — all with their
nerves strung high; the eyes that some of the
women turned to him were wet as he stammered
his thanks. He loved everybody; the members
of the company were his brothers and sisters 1
Rayne clapped him on the shoulder, and sounded
imperative — Oliphant didn't understand about
what. All he realised vividly was that Blanche
Ellerton was standing among the group, waiting
for him to reach her. He took both her hands
and could have fallen at her feet.
"Oh, Gk)d bless you I" he gasped.
"Was I what you meant?"
"You were great — ^what can I say? — ^you were
"For Heaven's sake, man, come I" Rayne
wrenched him round; "they want the author —
take your call!"
He was dragged before the audience, and made
She was there when he came oflP — ^not queenly
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 91
any longer, but a girl with paint on her face, and
a tear trickling down it. "Good-night," she said.
"I think it's a success?"
"Thanks to yott," he muttered. He caught
her hands to his mouth, and kissed them violently.
"There are no words to tell you how grateful I
am — ^no words I Good night. Miss EUerton."
It occurred to him afterwards that a diplo-
matist would have bestowed his superlative bene-
diction on the manager ; but he didn't care !
When Mrs. Tubbs came into his room with
the bundle of newspapers that he had ordered
overnight, Oliphant sat up in bed and grabbed
them; and the more he read the blanker grew
his dismay. Not one of the Press opinions of
The Impostor was wholly favourable, and the
majority were decidedly the reverse. The actors
and actresses, of course, were complimented,
especially Miss EUerton — The Daily Telegraph
was reminded of Aimee Desclee — but the dra-
matic critics were not so diffident of disparaging
the author; and after breakfast, when the eve-
ning papers were published, one of the notices
was headed, "Claude Melnotte in a Chimney-
The author walked down to the Dominion in
the morning, because he felt that it would be
cowardly to stay away; and he had a brief,
dejected chat with Rayne in the office. To go
to the theatre at night, however, and see the
company flat, and the house three-parts empty,
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 93
was beyond him. He wondered if Miss Ellerton
was sympathising with him in his failure. She
could afford to do so; The Impostor had at any
rate been a triumph for her. He would go
to-morrow 1 He fancied what she would say
and what he would answer, and foresaw her reply
to that. He found that he was looking forward
to their conversation very eagerly.
But it was not quite so charming as he had
expected. She said that "the bad notices of the
piece were an awful shame," but he could not
avoid perceiving that her mind was chiefly occu-
pied by the good notices of herself. The con-
versation approached his imaginary picture more
closely when he congratulated her on her success;
then she was again animated. He was relieved
to hear that the audience was not so scanty as
he had feared it would be; and when the acting-
manager came round with the returns Rayne
perked up, and spoke hopefully of "pulling the
thing together yet."
It was his first play; the atmosphere of a
theatre had grown essential to him; and man
knows no wilder adoration than a dramatist may
feel for the actress who realises his heroine — the
Dominion drew Royce Oliphant like a loadstone.
He watched Blanche Ellerton from the wings
while she was on the stage, and talked to her
94 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
in the wings when she came off, and found the
wings a void when she was in her dressing-room.
The not uncommon delusion that to obtain
disenchantment it is only needful to view the
make-up on an actress's face at dose quarters,
is the reverse of the truth instead of a fact.
She is probably far better-looking so — there in
that light — than she is by nature — and the con-
sciousness that she is made up, moreover, is by
no means active in the spectator's mind. At the
rehearsals Miss EUerton had been a pretty girl;
here she was a beautiful woman. Very soon,
indeed, Oliphant came to remember her as she
was here and altogether forgot the comparatively
insipid face which belonged to her by rights. It
was a little shock to him the first time he saw
her again in her o¥ni person — ^they had met in
Oxford Street. But for the glamour of her
identity, which nothing could destroy^ — ^the
knowledge that she was the girl who inside the
theatre affected him so powerfully — he would
have felt the meeting sad.
None the less he was delighted a few evenings
later when she mentioned that her home was at
Earl's Court and it was understood that he was
to call there some afternoon.
He went the foUowing Sunday — ^he would
have gone before but for the dread of showing
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 96
himself impatient. The house that sheltered the
goddess when he reached it was not imposing;
but as he waited in the little drawing-room, with
its dyed grasses, and photographs of Blanche
EUerton on the mantelpiece, he smoothed his hair
a trifle nervously.
She came in to him a moment afterwards, and
they exchanged preliminary platitudes. She was
followed by her parents, and a sallow, unattrac-
tive girl of about twenty, with high shoulders
and a flat chest, who, he learnt with surprise,
was her sister. There was tea, and, on his part
at least, uneasiness.
Mrs. EUerton was a thin, simple-looking
woman, prematurely grey. Her destiny was
to write novelettes to order. Novelettes that
filled a couple of pages — longer novelettes issued
at a halfpenny, between blue, pink, and green
wrappers — ^novelettes that were "To be con-
tinued in our next," all came alike to her pen.
She took pleasure in the work, and was ashamed
to be pleased by it, for she was keenly sensitive
to ridicule. She was consoled by remembering
that the money she obtained was indispensable.
Blanche had earned a little as a child-actress
before she was eleven, but the five pounds a
week she was drawing from the Dominion was
the highest salary to which she had attained.
96 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and there were many months in which she earned
nothing at alL
The head of the family — the husband of the
lady novelettist — ^was James Ellerton; he fre-
quently reminded her of it — ^in fact, it was his
misfortune that he could never forget it himself.
He had formerly been a provincial actor — a call-
ing he loathed — and as a provincial actor he
might have contributed towards the household
expenses to-day. Unhappily, some ten years
since, he had written a very clever novel, which
evoked most excellent reviews, and of which the
publishers sold the fewest possible number of
copies. For a writer who had been likened to
Balzac — and he was — to continue to make a fool
of himself on third-rate theatrical tours, or to
say, "The dinner is served, madam," in London,
he had felt to be incongruous. James Ellerton,
in the Saturday Review, was "a distinguished
novelist"; James Ellerton, in the theatre, was a
nonentity to be snubbed and bullied. His suc-
cess in literature gained him no jot of considera-
tion from stage-managers and dramatic-agents —
as the adaptation of a French melodrama would
have done — for the simple reason that none of
them knew anything whatever about it. He had,
therefore, retired from the theatrical profession;
and at very lengthy intervals produced two
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 97
further novels, which were reviewed highly also,
and much admired — by the reviewers. Few
other persons had heard of them. He was sup-
ported, fitfully by the exertions of his elder
daughter, and for the most part by his wife's
novelettes, whose literary quality caused him
acute disgust. She mentioned them in his pres-
"It's so nice to see you, Mr. Oliphant," she
said. **We were all in front the first night, of
course. I do hope it will go onl Do you think
"I think that Miss EUerton's performance
alone ought to be enough to draw all London,"
"Oh, how lovely of you to say so! She's
worked so hard, Blanche has; and she's never
had what I call a 'real chance' till now. But
the drama is so good in itself! I'm sure it ought
to run. Mr. Ellerton thought highly of it; didn't
Mr. Ellerton had been considering — as he
always did consider on being introduced to any-
one — ^how to intimate that he was "a distin-
guished novelist"; and he was grateful to her
for making the opportunity. It would have been
beneath his dignity to let her see it, however;
the fiction of his importance — ^the importance of
98 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
his fiction — was maintained on the domestic
"The literary quality of the dialogue," he said
impressively, "of course appealed to me. There
are lines that I would have written myself."
"I'm glad you liked it," said Oliphant; "yes."
He saw that the others were of the opinion that
the elderly gentleman had paid him a great com-
pliment, and was a little puzzled. The father
wrote, then? — that was why he wore a brown
"Papa doesn't often praise a piece, I can tell
you!" said Blanche. "He's so fiendishly critical.
You know his books?"
"I — I know the books in a sense," murmured
Oliphant. "I'm ashamed to say I haven't read
"There are some millions," said Mr. EUerton
with a fine smile, "in the same position." He
always said this, and said it rather welL "I
am not — er — ^popular, Mr. Oliphant — I won't
say 'successful,' for, as a detail, my novels obtain
their — er — columns of eulogy in all the impor-
tant papers." He waved the papers aside. "I
have never consented to cheapen my style from
commercial motives. It may be a weakness. I
may be wrong."
"I think it's the reverse," declared Oliphant;
THE ACTOR-MANAGER dd
"very much the reverse. To know he can afford
to do his best work must be a literary man's
Mr. Ellerton bent his head, and smiled again —
"It isr he said.
"Oh, we're a very briUiant family," laughed
the actress; "you've no ideal"
"Do you write as well, Mrs. Ellerton?"
"Oh, only a little," she faltered; ''my writing
is My husband is the author. I write for
papers; I've no time to think about a book."
"You write more than a 'little' then?"
"Well, they keep me busy," she confessed
nervously; "don't they, James? Did I tell you
that there's a note from Mr. Trussell asking for
a ten-thousand-word story as soon as I can let
him have it?"
"How long does a story like that take to do?"
Under the influence of polite interest — an in-
fluence to which she was so unaccustomed — ^the
simple woman grew expansive. "Oh, not very
long, if I keep at it; and I do when I've begun!
Of course my tales aren't — aren't — what is the
" ^Serious,' " said the authority carelessly.
"Yes, aren't 'serious,' " she continued, win-
100 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
cing — "in a literary sense my husband means.
They're — they're written to suit the class of
papers that want me; but they take hold of me
while I'm doing them; and I don't like to put
"I can understand the fascination very well,"
answered the young man. "To keep seeing one-
self in print, too, must be jolly 1"
"The characters seem quite real to m^," she
said, "and — and it's exciting when one gets them
into some dreadful trouble, and doesn't quite
know how they're going to get out of it. One
doesn't worry, you knowl There are nights when
I can't sleep because I keep asking myself how
the heroine's going to be saved, and " She
saw her husband's expression, and changed colour
pathetically. "But it's absurd to talk about my
writing in front of Mr. EUertonl I only play
"My wife's work has — er — ^has its merits,"
admitted the introspective novelist whom it kept.
"It really isn't so bad as some of the stuff these
papers trade in; I hope to see both her and
Blanche advance considerably. And — if you
persevere, Mr. OUphant — I think there's some-
body else I shaU have to congratulate one of
these days 1"
"It won't be on my plays," said Oliphant
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 101
shortly; "I*m an actor." He was sorry to be
conscious that he felt the visit was proving very
All this time the girl in the background had
said nothing except "How do you do?" but sat
regarding Oliphant with hungry eyes. Though
she was accustomed to men ignoring her, she
yearned to be noticed by them, and she had
always a passionate hope that the last one intro-
duced would be the exception to the rule. The
attention secured by her sister's brightness, her
father's self-assertion, even by her mother's small
talk, accentuated the force of her secret mortifi-
cation. Life contained for her but one brief
excitement. It was when she stood up in com-
pany and played, in an amateurish, untrained
way, some simple air on her violin, trembling to
know that now, at least, men looked at her. At
these moments there was, in the breast of the
semi-deformed girl, the tumult of triumph and
despair that belongs to a Paganini. But her skill
was of the slightest, and nobody suspected, as
she scraped "The Last Rose of Summer," that
she felt much more than a mechanical toy.
"Gertrude," said Mrs. Ellerton now, with a
glance in her direction, "came home from the
Dominion hysterical. How she cried there 1 So
did I — I always do — but Grertrude sobbed."
108 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"Did you, Miss EUerton?'
She turned sick with the intensity of her desire
to say something "good" — something that should
stimulate his interest. She clasped her hands in
her lap with an unspoken prayer.
"Yes/' she said huskily, her face suffused with
an unbecoming blush.
"I wish it had been your business to write
some of the notices. You'd have dealt more
kindly with me."
"Yes," she said.
"The receipts are going up a little every eve-
ning, though, lately; perhaps it may turn out
well after all — ^it's possible. One can't say."
"No," she said.
"I wonder how much money Rayne has got?"
exclaimed the leading lady; "do you think he can
afford to wait till it works up into a draw? But
I oughtn't to ask you that."
"As a matter of fact I don't know," Oliphant
"He ought to advertise it more. There are
no advertisements — ^none to speak of. And — oh,
these managers, these managers 1"
"What were you going to say?"
"Well, the advertisements he does put in —
look at all the lines from the notices that he
quotes! They're not the best, they're not the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 108
finest by any means: because the best notices
were got by me, and he doesn't want to advertise
anybody but himself. 'Herbert Rayne's Latest
Success!* And what of the author of the piece,
and poor Blanche Ellerton?"
"I'm afraid the author of the piece can't lay
claim to many good notices," he laughed.
Her mother despatched a warning glance.
"Blanche is so frank, Mr. OKphant," she mur-
mured; "she says too much sometimes."
"Oh, Mr. Oliphant won't tell tales out of
school, I know! Have I been indiscreet, Mr.
Oliphant?" She smiled bewitchingly.
"Why, I thought we were friends?" he said.
"I feel perfectly safe in Mr. OUphant's hands
— I'm not alarmed! But isn't it so? The lines
that would tell go into the waste-paper basket.
You know what the critics said of me! Did you
see The World? Oh, did you see The World?
I must show it you! Where is it, mother?"
"Yes, I saw it," he said; "I brought you the
cutting, if you remember."
"Oh, so you did — so kind of you! Well" —
her gesture was perhaps a Uttle unrestrained for
a room — "these things aren't advertised, and
there ought to be half a colmnn of them in all
the papers! I've suffered in the same way aU
through my career. They won't, they XDonft let
104 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
you get a better adjective than themselves — ^the
vanity of a management is simply appalling 1"
"I have never written for the theatre on that
aceomit," observed the novelist; "I wouldn't do
it. I would not consent to stultify my intention
because an actor-manager demanded that he
should be in the centre of the stage when he ought
to be in his dressing-room. I always say one
thing; I say: 'Come to me when you can forget
that you are managing this house for your own
glorification and then I'll write you a play.
In the meanwhile, my dear sir, no! You don't
suit me, and I shouldn't suit you.* They may
be oflFended; but I say what I mean."
"My husband won't give in," boasted Mrs.
Ellerton feebly. "He'll never give in."
"Nol Those are my principles, and I shall
keep true to them. Possibly" — ^he lifted his eye-
brows and his shoulders — "possibly I may be
unwise 1" The doubt troubled him less because
he had never been asked for a play in his life.
"I know something of the difficulties of the
profession, naturally," said Oliphant, addressing
himself to the actress; "but surely you have noth-
ing to be dejected about? You've done wonders."
"Oh," she sighed, "if you knew what I've had
to contend with in my career — ^the obstacles that
would have crushed an ordinary girll I daresay
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 106
I shall take things more lightly in ten years'
time; I suppose a woman does take them more
lightly than a young girl" — ^her tone suggested
that she was sixteen — "but, do you know, I
simply writhe to-day at an injustice! Shall I
ever forget when I went to New York with Mrs.
Sweet-Esmond? She got me for twelve pounds
a week, between ourselves — I accepted the oflFer,
as I accepted these ridiculous terms at the
Dominion, because the engagement meant an
opportunity — and then she simply hated me be-
cause I rehearsed the part well. 'Miss Ellerton,'
she said, 'I have come to New York to make the
success — not you!' Catl I think that tour with
Mrs. Sweet-Esmond did more to — ^to destroy
my childish trustfulness than anything in my
He caught himself wishing that she would be
satisfied to caU it her "life" occasionally, but he
sympathised with her nevertheless.
If her conversation had been phonographed
and reproduced in his hearing without the play
of her eyes, and the magic that her presence
exercised upon him now, he would have judged
it as fairly as anybody else. Had he gone to the
house as the friend of another man who admired
her, he would have judged it fairly too; and — if
he had been a fool — he would have attempted
106 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
to convince the other man when they left that,
apart from the inexplicable histrionic gift, there
was "nothing in her." As it was, the blemishes
which he could not overlook were only spots on
the sun. They did distress him on his way home,
but for the veriest instant. He even persuaded
himself that they had a charm, because they im-
plied a glimpse of the girl's real self — ^the thing
which every man honestly in love, every man not
a sybarite in the emotions, constantly tempts her
to expose, instead of assisting her to veil. The
man honestly in love is the eternal justification
of the parable concerning the goose with the
golden eggs. In truth, the longer the girl takes
to become "real" to his sight, the longer his
homage will last, though she may be able to dis-
play as many virtues as eyelashes; for nearly
every educated man is unconsciously an ideaUst
in relation to the opposite sex, and rarely falls
in love with a girl at all, but with a character
quite different which her face suggests to him.
That there are contented husbands is less a testi-
monial to men's wisdom than to women's adapta-
bihty and tact. "Familiarity breeds contempt"
was a man's adage; as a reflection on feminine
character it is a lie. Women are ideaUsts too,
but they idealise their possessors; men idealise
only what they seek to possess. The longer the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 107
average woman lives with a man, assuming he
is not a brute — and often when he is — ^the fonder
of him she becomes; and on their silver-wedding
she can kiss his hand if his finger-nails are dirty.
But it is a severe chill to the average man's
adoration the first time the woman he worships
has a cold in the head. Royce Ohphant, however,
was wooing severer chills.
It was seven o'clock when he reached home,
and Mrs. Tubbs, whom he met on the stairs,
informed him that at about four o'clock a boy
had brought a note for him. Oliphant opened
it hastily, and read the pencilled message with
astonishment. It was from Mr. Voysey, and
stated that Rayne had been thrown from a cab,
and rather seriously hurt. Would Oliphant play
"Clement" the following evening? Voysey
would be at the Eccentric Club till eleven, and
must know to-night.
He did not hesitate a second. To appear in
the piece himself would no longer imperil its
prospects, and now he would be able to show
what he could do in a leading part. His chance
had come. But this was not his paramount con-
sciousness as he caught his breath. The thought
that intoxicated him was that he was required
to make passionate love to Blanche EUerton.
Of course Rayne had an understudy — a novice
108 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
who was filling a minor role, and receiving two
pounds a week; and of course the aggrieved
understudy was almost the only person in the
theatre who was surprised that he wasn't called
upon to play the part now occasion arose. The
understudy is frequently given cause for such
surprise. But to substitute his unknown name
for a favourite's if it can be avoided would be
folly. If The Impostor had been a success, Oli-
phant would not have been thought of either.
The receipts, however, did not warrant another
forty pounds being added to the salary list, and
the actor-author was chosen as a compromise
between a man with a reputation and the indig-
nant tyro who had been praying that Rayne
might be taken ill ever since the dress-rehearsal.
Oliphant left the Eccentric Club with the part
in his pocket, and walked about among the blue
rep furniture of the Burton Crescent drawing-
room, studying, till four in the morning. He
really knew the lines almost as weU as Rayne
himself, and his chief anxiety was the "business."
He was now painfully alive to the importance of
his opportimity, and when he permitted himself
to realise that he was on the eve of appearing as
leading man in London he shook.
Mr. Voysey had written to all the principals
whose addresses he remembered, and early next
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 109
day telegrams were despatched to the rest. At
one o'clock Royce went through his scenes with
them — ^nobody doing more than murmur the
words — and then clothes had to be decided on,
and a visit made to Shaftesbury Avenue to
remedy defects; and his hair had to be trimmed,
and some dress-ties bought, and a moustache
selected; and dinner had to be swallowed — with
the part propped against the cruet — and shoes
had to be varnished, and his make-up box ex-
amined, and a portmanteau packed; and after
that he had to stretch himself on the sofa and
try to sleep, tortured by the thought that some
ghastly oversight would paralyse him when it
was too late.
When Edmund Kean walked into Drury Lane
Theatre "with Shylock*s costmne in a bundle on
his arm," he found it necessary to dress among
the supernumeraries; when Royce Oliphant
arrived at the Dominion, he was given the star
room, and Rayne*s dresser, and all the appur-
tenances of a position that he hadn't won. On
the whole he thought he would rather have been
without them, though he appreciated the blessing
of a room to himself; he felt that if he made a
failure, he would look doubly fooUsh for the
grandeur. He was made up and dressed half
an hour before his first entrance, and lay back
110 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
in an armchair beside the mirror, listening to the
vague sounds from the passages and stage that
crept through his nerves. A first performance
in a company that are ah*eady at home in their
parts is a far greater ordeal to an actor than a
first night. At a first night the nervousness is
general, and the artists do not criticise one an-
other; but when one actor alone is new to the
piece, his nervousness is quadrupled by his fear
of his companions' opinions.
"Curtain's up, sirl" remarked the dresser,
returning with a box of cigarettes.
"Thank you," said Oliphant; "how long have
I got now?"
"About twelve minutes — it's just on a quarter
to nine when Mr. Rayne's caUed. Will you want
anything after the first hact, sir?"
"Yes, you might get me a small bottle of
stout. But for heaven's sake don't be late for
my change 1"
He lit a cigarette, and waited for the caU-boy's
summons. • • •
" ^Clement!' Mr. Rayne, sir I"
The wings seemed brighter and hotter than
usual this evening; the glances that he caught
looked anxious. He had still nearly two minutes.
He walked round to the door in the canvas
"flat" that he was to open^ and stood listening
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 111
intently. What was the prompter hanging about
for? he knew what the cue was well enough I
"Lady Plynhmmon's" voice thrilled him — she
ought to get a laugh here. . . . Yes, it camel
A line from "Maud/' and it would be the instant
for him to burst into speech and enter. "My
God," he said, "help mer The cue feU; and he
turned the handle.
A FUBTHEB contrast to the Edmund Eean
night was the fact that it wasn't "marvellous so
few of them could kick up such a row," but the
applause was hearty notwithstanding, and Oli-
phant left the theatre a happy man. He had
succeeded; he knew it; and the cordial congratu-
lations of the company buzzed in his ears. Natu-
rally the success lacked the splendour it would
have had on the night of the production, before
rows of Press men; still it eflFected a great deal.
The Stage gave him a glowing paragraph in the
next issue; The Era was equally generous on
Saturday; and The Referee sweetened his Sun-
day bloater by its hope that the managers would
take care Mr. Royce Oliphant did not return
to the provinces in a hurry — ^he had been hidden
there too long.
These things mean that many people drop into
the theatre who would not go otherwise; though,
as the majority of them gain admission by the
presentation of their cards, their attendance is
of less value to the box-office than to the artist
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 118
they come to see. The dramatic-agents, for
instance, went to the Dominion; and those on
whose books Mr. Royce Oliphant's name was
not registered were loudest in advising him to
put his trust in them. Two oflFers of "leading
business" were made to him speedily; but one
was for a spring tour, and the other was to sup-
port an actress who was going to "star" in
America; and he held fast to his resolution to
remain in town. It looked as if he should be able
to do so now! At any rate he had obtained a
hearing, and he had been very fortimate.
He had, indeed, been more fortunate than he
quite reahsed, for not only had the opportunity
not come too late, but — what was nearly as im-
portant — it had not come too soon. Though he
had much to master still, he had now gained the
experience without which his talent could have
made little or no impression. He had conquered
the hardest of all histrionic tasks: he had learned
to convey emotion as well as to feel it. Many
other things he had had to learn : things unteach-
able, and things that he might have been taught
with ease — but which he had picked up with diffi-
culty. The actor is taught nothing. When he
blunders at rehearsal, the stage-manager tells
him to "do it the other way," and he obeys; and
in a diflFerent situation the "other way" may be
114 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
a clumsy way. If he is astute and assiduous, and
an enthusiast, he may, by acquiring one wrinkle
from the part he plays in January, and another
from the next, which he plays in June, know very
nearly as much in five years of the "tricks" of
the stage, as they are foolishly termed, as he
could have been shown at a Conservatoire in
three weeks. He has attained by this time quali-
ties which no Conservatoire could have conferred,
but he is like an author beginning to make effects
with a language while he is still ignorant of its
However, Oliphant had profited more than
most young men by the seven years that he had
served for his Ideal, and such excellent accounts
of his performance reached Herbert Rayne that
the invalid suffered a twinge of professional
jealousy. Royce himself was radiant. Miss
EUerton filled his thoughts — ^Miss EUerton more
than ever confused with her assumption of
"Lady Maud Elstree" — and elation and love
rendered these days the most delicious that he
had known in his life.
When he had been playing "Clement" rather
more than a week, he congratulated her one eve-
ning, during their first conversation.
"What about?" she inquired, opening sur-
prised blue eyes.
TME ACitoR-MAKAGEft li«
''I'm told that Rayne will be able to come back
very soon." He laughed. "You'U have some-
body to act up to you again!"
"M-mm!" she said.
"You know you're relieved to hear it?"
"Well, aren't you— truth?"
"What do you want to know for?"
"Because I'm so conceited; I want to be
"Well — ^go and read your notices 1"
"I could write them to you. Tell me; aren't
you glad Rayne is coming back?"
"Look out," she exclaimed, starting forward;
"there's my cuel"
He moved to the prompt-entrance, and
watched her — a different woman in an instant,
with dignity in her bearing and sorrow in her
face. Familiar as he was with the environment,
he was momentarily sensible of the strangeness
of the thing. When they were both in the wings
again — it was after the act-drop had fallen, and
she was hurrying towards her dressing-room —
she flashed a glance over her shoulder and threw
him her answer:
"No — I'm sorry 1" she said, with a smile that
blinded him. He would have overtaken her,
though she ran swiftly, but staggering scene-
116 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
shifters intervened, and the walls of "Lady
Plynlimmon's" dismembered mansion blocked
his way. Behind the footlights all was chaos
now, and there was his own change of costume
to be made. The dresser said: "It's a good 'ouse
to-night, ain't it, Mr. Holiphant?" but he scarcely
heard the question, nor the depressed addendum
that "No doubt a deal of it was piper 1" He was
engrossed by the knowledge that she would be
"sorry," and that he would be sorry — sorrier even
than he had understood.
But when he attempted to tell her so, she
declined to be sentimental, and he returned to
the dresser's ministrations sadly.
There was a card stuck in the looking-glass
now, and he saw with surprise that the name
on it was Otho Fairbaim. At the back was
scribbled: "I'm in the stalls, and want to come
"Tucker," he said.
"Tell the doorkeeper that when Mr. Fairbaim
asks for me, he is to come in, please."
Oliphant was in his vest and trousers, remov-
ing his make-up, :when Mr. Fairbaim was con-
ducted to the room.
"Don't shake hands with me — I'm all vase-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 117
line/' said Oliphant. ''How are you, old man?
When did you come back?"
"My dear fellow," cried Fairbairn, beaming,
"you're perfectly 'immense' 1 I do congratulate
you, upon my word I I didn't dream you had
it in you. I say, you are going it, with your own
piece, tool What did they cut it up for? I
think it's very good. Well, how are you, eh?"
"I'm all right," said OHphant; "awfully glad
to see you again. Sit down somewhere — Tucker,
clear a chair, will you? Have you come from
"Yes; I was going to Cairo, but I don't think
I shall. You've got to come and have supper
with me at the club ; I want to hear all the news,
don't you know. Don't say you aren't freel"
His evident pleasure at the meeting would
have been infectious even if the sight of his fair
boyish face had not been agreeable to OHphant
always. He still looked so rosily, peacefully
young; and his affectations were so innocent,
because he was deceived by them himself. Per-
haps because he was conscious of the weakness
of his character, he was perpetually adopting a
new one — for an hour or a season. A year or
two before, the Turf had been the only thing
worth living for — he avowed the opmion frankly,
and gloried in it; but six months later he was
118 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
attempting to demonstrate to his associates the
hoUowness of their pm*suits and talking earnestly
of the responsibiUties of wealth, and the beauty
of a self-sacrificing hfe in the East End. The
phase lasted the entire autmnn» and was suc-
ceeded by an interval of Schopenhauer-worship,
in which he expressed his preference for soUtude,
with a pipe and his bookshelves, in such perf ervid
terms as to offend several of his dearest friends.
Allusions to the latest character that he had re-
signed were received by him with disapproval;
and the still ehgible women whom he took down
to dinner once in six months were frequently em-
barrassed by their doubt whether to approach
him on the subject of Theosophy or golf.
One of the truest sentiments that he had
uttered sprang to his girlish lips when he and
Ohphant had supped, and, having lighted cigars,
lolled opposite each other before a fire.
"I do envy your having an aim in lifel" he
^TTes ; it's a very good thing if your aim is true.
It means a big disappointment if it isn't," said
Oliphant, rather startled.
"It's a good thing anyhow, Royce. The secret
of enjoyment is Endeavour and Purpose. Look
at me — what am I? I'm miserable. I'll take
my oath I'd change with a happy mechanic."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 119
"Rotl" said Oliphant. "This is new, isn't it?
YouVe always struck me as appreciating your
advantages very thoroughly."
"What I want," said Fairbaim, emitting
circlets of smoke and contemplating them, "is
love, Royce. Believe me, everything else is a
bubble. The happiest man isn't the wealthy man,
or the famous man, but the man who has the love
of a good woman. There's no blessing so great."
"No," said the lover; "no; there I'm with you."
"Mais cherchez la femme! Oof's a big draw-
back, old man. I never get a woman who cares
for me; other chaps dol I want a big passion,
Oliphant; I want a woman to renounce the world
or something for me. I suppose there are women
who renounce things for fellows? But damned
if I see 'eml There are plenty to pretend, if I
like to pay for the amusement — some want
jewellery, and some want settlements — ^but I
don't get near the middle lot who would love me
if I were a Government clerk."
"Why don't you read for the Bar, or do some-
thing like that?" said Oliphant. "And you used
to write; have you quite given that up?"
Fairbaim nodded. "Let's have a whisky-and-
soda!" he said. "Yes; I get nothing but disillu-
sions. I see a girl — beautiful girl; good family,
nice figure, not a point to find fault with. Well,
180 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
perhaps I think I'd like to make that girl my
wife. But she wants to marry me. How can a
fellow fall in love with a girl who wants to marry
him? I was at the Opera Ball the night before
I left "
"You didn't see her there, did you?"
"Don't chaff, old man — I feel very deeply on
the subject; I do, really. I say I was at the
Opera Ball the other night, and I saw another
girl — well, she'd the face of a goddess, a face to
die for I I can't tell you how intensely she affected
me as I watched her. She was standing alone;
but I didn't go over to her, because I knew that
to hear her speak would be disenchantment. It
struck me that that was typical of everything in
my life, Oliphantl Is this the Scotch, waiter?
Yes, the Scotch for me. I wrote some verses
when I got back to the hotel. *Don't take off
your mask ' Nol What is it? I forget the
beginning. • • • One of them goes like this —
*^Do not speak, I pray, ma mignonne,
For *Things are not what they seem',
And I know your voice would surely
Dissipate my drunken dream.
Muse a moment mutely so, dear,
With your cheek upon your hand.
While I worship what you are not —
What you would not understand!"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 1«1
"It's very pretty," said Oliphant.
"I wish I could remember the rest," said
Fairbaim more cheerfully; "I think the sadness
underlying the cynicism is rather Eh? Oh,
everything's a selll The world's grown too old
to be lively — ^how our sons will amuse themselves
Heaven alone knows 1 Paris is a sell — where are
the grisettes and the romance ? When you expect
the descriptions you've always received to be
realised, they say, * Ah, that used to be 1' It never
was in my time, though. And in New York,
when you want to see the things you've heard of
aU your life, they say, *Ah, that was oncet* It
seems to me you and I were born too late. I was
at Brighton last season — I believe the most
beautiful women in Europe were to be found at
Brighton during the season 'once.' I said I
should like to see one or two of them this time.
*Ah, people don't come here as they didl' I'm
trying to find the place that exists to-day. But
if I give Cairo a chance I know it'll be a fraud,
and when I complain I shall be told, *Ah, you're
talking of twenty years ago I' "
"Is that why you are here?"
"Well, I should have seen your piece, anyhow;
I meant to stay in town a night on purpose. I
say, that girl who plays 'Maud,' Miss — what's
l«t TflE ACTOR-MANAGE&
her name? — is good-looking. She's a clever
"Miss EUerton," said the actor, gazing at the
"Yes, 'EUerton,' that's it! Is she— er "
"She's a very fiile actress indeed, and a lady;
and — and her father's a literary man," broke in
Oliphant hmriedly. "A charming family alto-
"I suppose you meet everybody now, eh — all
the celebrities? It must be a change from the
provinces, by Jovel You'll go to the top of the
tree with a rush, I expect. Well, you deserve
" *Go to the top with a rush' — ^what are you
talking about? I'm likelier to be 'up a tree' than
at the top of it; there are more difficulties in the
way than you imagine."
"Oh, boshl" said the other, with the easy assur-
ance of the friend who knows nothing of the
matter; "you're always so doubtful of yourself.
You're miles ahead of half the best men in Lon-
don. You don't appear to be acting, that's what
fetched me. Why don't you take a theatre?"
"Why don't I what?" said Oliphant, staring.
"Why don't you take a theatre?" repeated
Fairbaim in the tone in which he might have
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 123
said, **Why don't you take a cab?" "It's the
thing to do, isn't it? FU go in with you."
"My dear fellow, do you regard me as the
most conceited man of your acquaintance? It's
very kind of you to suggest such a thing; but I
shouldn't draw twopence, and I know it."
"You're a damned fool," said his host casually.
"The men who get on are the chaps who don't
know what modesty means. *You must stir it,
and stump it, and blow your own trumpet, or
trust me you haven't a chance.' Wouldn't you
like to have your own theatre, and play Hamlet?
You used to talk enough about it, I remember.
Bored us to death 1"
"Ah," murmured Royce, "that's another ques-
tion! Would I *like it'? Oh yes, I'd ^like it.'
I'd like to play Hamlet, and I'd like to have my
own theatre. Both. Either. Whether I shall
ever realise the dream — or half the dream — only
the good gods know. Hamlet 1 — in London 1
• • ." He shook himself and laughed. "Oh,
man, why send me home dissatisfied? I was
rather puffed up by my present advance when
"But I'm perfectly serious I" protested Fair-
bairn. "If you'd like to have a shot at a theatre,
I'll go in with you. I won't make you any
presents — you needn't be afraid of that. We'U
124 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
do it on commercial lines. We'll find out the
square thing, and "
Oliphant extended his hand, with a flush on his
face. "You're a trump, Othol" he exclaimed:
"you're a friend in a million! The idea is pre-
posterous, I assure you. It's — it's years too
soon; one takes a theatre when one has a follow-
ing. But — ^well, you're a pall"
He did not make his way towards home "dis-
satisfied," nevertheless. The proposal, wild as
it was, had excited him temporarily; and with
the effervescence of fancy, his mood was gay.
London — already the City of Recollections to
him — pulsed with promise. Overhead the stars
were brilliant, and an artificial radiance tinged
the puddles on the road. In the stillness of
Southampton Row his reverie broke into voice:
" *0, speak again, bright angel I' " he cried; and
an unexpected policeman scrutinised him as he
passed. Heavens, how absurd he was I But he
returned to Bloomsbury for a moment only, and
in the next he was under the balcony again, where
Blanche Ellerton leant as Juliet. And he spoke
Romeo's lines — beyond the hearing of the police-
man — until he trembled at the Burton Crescent
"Mr. Rayne will resume the part to-morrow
evening." There was no exultance in his mood
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 126
then. Could he ever have exulted? The theatre
has heartaches "peculiarly its own" — ^which was
the phrase by which Mrs. Ellerton habitually
described the grace of her heroines. To see a
part that has been played during months by the
woman he loves represented by her successor
means a heartache to an actor; and a bad heart-
ache, accentuated by every familiar line the new-
comer delivers — in such different tones from the
voice he is used to hear. Often she wears the
same frocks — ^which are eloquent to him by asso-
ciation — and mocks him with a poignant resem-
blance to the woman who is miles away, or dead,
until she turns her face. Perhaps this is the
worst. It hurts, though, on the eve of leaving
the company himself to act with a girl who is
dear to him. To-morrow night the story will
be played again — she will be listening as she is
listening now; only, he will be absent, and an-
other man will speak the words to her instead.
No child sits in the dress-circle to whom the
scenery says so much as to the young actor who
is bidding it good-bye at a time like this; he tries
to impress the picture on his brain, that not a
detail may be missing from his memory of her,
and feels for the rooms of canvas all the tender-
ness with which one quits a home.
Certainly Royce would retain the advantage
126 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
of being the author — ^he could still talk to Miss
EUerton during her waits, as he had done before
the eventful Monday; but when he entered the
Dominion for his last performance there he was
As the piece progressed, sentimentality swayed
him wholly. He might never act with her any
more. He felt as if he were falling from heaven
to a blank. Each minute was precious, and he
would have caught it and prevented its escape.
The result might have been foretold, though it
was unpremeditated — he confessed in the love-
scenes all that he longed to confess in the wings;
and in the situation where he had to clasp her
to him in despair, and swear he wouldn't let her
go, he lost control of himself in reality. The
approval of the audience was ardent — there was
the loudest round of applause that had been
heard in the house since The Impostor was pro-
duced. But when Oliphant led Miss Ellerton
before the curtain and they made their bows,
they didn't look at each other.
"May I speak to you?" he said presently,
when she came downstairs dressed to leave the
"Yes, I've been waiting to speak to you; I
can't go without speaking to you." Yet for a
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 187
moment he could find nothing to say. "You
know, don't you? Blanche, I love youl"
She was at the foot of the staircase. The stage
was so dark now that her pale face was indistinct;
he could see little more than that it was hers.
*TDo you care for me at all? If I get on, will
you marry me?" Some of his life seemed to
leave his mouth with the last question. He
touched her hand diffidently — there was a glove
on it, and the cold suede chilled him. "Blanche?"
After a long silence she said:
"YouVe siu*prised me very much. I Oh,
no; I don't mean to marry for years and years 1"
'"Why not?" he asked in a dreary voice.
"It would hamper me frightfully. And be-
"And besides I'm nothing to you?"
"Oh, you're not to say that," she returned;
"you're a friend; and I hope you'll keep one.
Our friendship has been so charming and so in-
teresting, hasn't it? It would be simply horrid
if we could never talk together again just because
of this." She smiled. "You will forget, I'm
"No," he said, "I shan't forget. If— if I
remember long enough — if I succeed — will there
be a chance for me then?"
"Oh," she exclaimed, "but I'm not going to
188 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
many for years and years and years, I tell you!
Marriage is a mistake for a young girl in the
profession, imless she marries somebody very
"But — but if you loved me, Blanche?"
*TDon't let us talk nonsense; very likely I
shan't marry at all; I shall live and die an old
maid. Can you see me? with a cap, and pepper-
and-salt ringlets! • . . We shall remain friends,
shan't we? I must say *Good-night' — I've my
train to catch.'*
"May I walk to the station with you?"
"Yes, if you like. But you're not to be foolish,
They passed through the passage and turned
into the Strand — which was henceforth to have
to him yet another memory. The bright decision
of her tones at once intensified his suffering, and
precluded the possibility of his finding further
words; he did not disobey her verbally. On the
Temple platform he closed the door of the first-
class compartment that she selected, and yearned
at her with wide eyes through the glass till the
train rushed on. She was praying meanwhile
that it would be quick to start, for she held only
a third-class ticket.
Now she was gone. The line was empty; and
he moved heavily away into the street.
He determined not to go near the Dominion
for a week, and it was two days before he did go.
Then he denied himself the stage-door and went
into the dress-circle. It was delicious pain. It
is, of course, desirable to bear "the pangs of
despised love" for any woman — "the beautiful
time when one was so unhappy" cannot, in fact,
be repeated too often — but to be wretched for an
actress is best of all; the emotion is richer and
morfe varied than being miserable for a girl in
Society. A man refused by a girl in Society, for
example, cannot feast his eyes on her features
and get intoxicated on the sweetness of her voice
for two hours and a half without her knowing he
is there. Oliphant availed himself of the oppor-
timities of his position for a fortnight to the
That he did not avail himself of them longer
was because they temporarily ceased to exist.
The Impostor was withdrawn, and Miss Eller-
ton, like himself, was out of an engagement. In
180 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
her advertisements in The Era she called it
He now regretted that he had not gone "be-
hind" of tener after the evening of his declaration.
He could see her from the dress-circle when she
played another part; but when would he be able
to stand beside her in the wings again? Perhaps
Fortunately there were other matters to oc-
cupy his mind. Excepting that enough remained
of the hundred pounds to spare him pecimiary
anxiety, his situation really appeared much the
same as before The Impostor was produced.
That his performance of "Clement" had borne
good fruit he knew; but the fruit was not ripe —
or he could not reach it. Momentarily he seemed
no better o£P than if there had not been any fruit
at alL The Press had said that the London
managers ought to snap him up ; but they didn't.
Nobody displayed the least eagerness to prevent
his returning to the provinces; the agents talked
about the provinces as persistently as ever.
Much better parts, much better salaries, were
oflFered to him, but always for tour.
Then at last he did obtain an engagement in
the West End; and once more the criticisms he
received were exceUent; but the piece had as
short a run as his own, and he was not needed
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 181
for the next. All the same he might now have
remained in town. He was not wanted as a hero,
because so many of the theatres are in the hands
of actor-managers, who are their own heroes;
but he could have remained in town, and earned
ten or even fifteen pounds a week before the year
ended, for there are very few professions better
paid than the stage when once one turns the
comer. His stumbling-block was love.
It happened that in the Green Room Club, one
afternoon, he met Rayne. Rayne had lost a
good deal of money by Oliphant's drama; and
as "The Great Dominion Success,'* he was hop-
ing it would put something back in his pocket
by means of an autimm tour. There were about
half a dozen dramas "on the road" at this time
described as "The Great Dominion Success";
some of them had run there a whole month.
"How are you?" he said. "I was just going
to drop you a line about the play. I suppose you
wouldn't care to go out with it?"
"Oh, no; I don't want to go on tour," said
"Well, it's for the autumn, you know; every-
body will be on tour in the autumn. I go on
tour myself, with Erskine."
"Oh, you don't go out with it then?"
"I can't afford it — I can't afford to throw
18« THE ACTOR-MANAGER
away a big salary, my boy. No, I'm sending it
out with the cheapest company I can get to-
gether. It occurred to me that it might be worth
your while to play 'Clement* for the sake of the
piece. The better it goes, the better for you
as the author.'*
"Humph r* said Oliphant.
"If it does well, there are your fees for years;
if it does badly, that's the end of it — short, sharp,
and decisive. I've no more money to lose, I can
tell you; by George, the Dominion nearly ruined
"The cheapest company you can get together?"
said Oliphant ruefully. ''The Impostor wants
acting; it won't play to great business with a
cheap crowd, I'm afraid."
"It must take its chance. I did all I could for
it here, and then what was the business like? I
haven't got back the hundred I put down on the
contract. I'm not sure the wisest course wouldn't
be to accept the loss and let the whole thing slide ;
I'm not sure of it by any means 1"
Oliphant looked round the room without
speaking. It was Saturday and the tables were
already laid for the house-dinner, though it was
only three o'clock. A few actors were playing
poker near the small fire-place; a few others
lounged by the big one, puffing cigarettes; but
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 188
not many members were present yet — the room
would fill after the matinees finished.
Rayne shifted his cigar between his teeth, and
continued with elaborate carelessness:
"Of course 'Clement* and *Maud' otight to be
in good hands — and 'Maud' IVe got. If you
had seen your way to play 'Clement' at very low
terms, I think the tour would have been safe."
"You've got 'Maud'?" asked OUphant.
"What's she like?"
"Oh, Miss Ellerton goes out with the piece;
I've managed that. I thought you knew."
He knew perfectly that he did not know; he
had been leading up to the announcement from
the beginning of the conversation. That OU-
phant had been in love with Blanche Ellerton,
and that Blanche EJUerton might have been fond
of Oliphant, had meant a possibility of obtaining
two good artists at much less than their ordinary
salaries. He had been on the stage too long to
overlook it. With the girl, however, he had
failed ; she did not reduce her terms a pound when
he mentioned that Mr. Oliphant — ^whom he had
not seen then — had "practically settled with
him." Oliphant, therefore, would have to reduce
his tremendously I In his heart, indeed, Rayne
was a shade sorry for Oliphant. "Still, as Eller-
ton was engaged at her own figure, it was only
184 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
fair that some of it should be contributed by her
mash!" That was how he put it afterwards to
the lady he loved.
"All right," said Oliphant, "I'U go. How
much do you want to pay?"
"My dear boy," answered Rayne, "I'm
ashamed to tell you. Upon my soul I ami"
He overcame his reluctance; and even the
lover started before he said "Yes." However,
he did say "Yes." He would have said "Yes"
to thirty shillings a week in view of the induce-
ment offered. On tour with Blanche! He
walked down Bedford Street intoxicated by the
To the ordinary person there would seem little
that is attractive in a mode of life that involves
occupying diflFerent lodgings every six days, and
undertaking a railway journey to another town
every Sunday, and indeed Oliphant had come to
dislike it himself; but a goddess can change dis-
comfort to delight as easily as a fairy turns a
pumpkin into a chariot.
The tour conmienced at Northampton on the
August Bank Holiday. The evenings, of course,
were much the same as the evenings at the
Dominion; but now there was no need to wait
until evening for a glimpse of Miss Ellerton.
Almost every fine morning, if he were patient
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 186
enough, he could be certain of meeting her in the
Drapery; and then what more natiu'al than that
he should accompany her on her way? Occa-
sionally they forsook the shop-windows — ^the
shop-windows of Northampton are not the most
alluring — and wandered through Hardingstone
Fields, where there is nothing to remind the
pedestrian of shoe manufactories and pork-pies,
and the country is as sylvan as if there were not
a chimney within a hundred miles.
From Northampton The Impostor proceeded
to Leicester, but the name, the industry, of the
town they happened to be in was really of very
slight consequence to the players. Whether the
chief thoroughfare was called the "Drapery** or
the "High Street," whether the theatre was
known as the "Royal" or the "Grand," their
habits and the piu'suits remained the same. A
touring actor's world moves with him on Sunday.
On Monday when he wakes up in another city,
his surroundings are to all intents and purposes
what they were in the last city the day before.
The characteristics of the streets impress him
very little — ^he views so many new streets — and
the myriad dwellings contain nothing but stran-
gers to him wherever he may be. The population
is merely the "public," whose raison d'etre is
to go to see the "show." His friendships, his
186 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
quarrels, his interests are in the theatrical com-
pany in which he is engaged.
The drama did not attract the provincial play-
goers in large numbers, but the author was not
severely chagrined. So long as he could saunter
beside Blanche Ellerton in the morning, and now
and again call upon her in the afternoon, he wto
able to pardon the box-office record. The after-
noon visits, indeed, with tea in the twilight, were
the rarest privileges of all, and by and by they
held moments in which he was convinced it wasn't
conceited to feel that she was fond of him.
And he was right. When this conviction con-
vulsed him it was the middle of October. For
nearly three months they had been constantly in
each other's society. They had been in each
other's arms on the stage at night, and walked
and talked together during the day. When the
towns afforded opportunities, they had made
little excursions — to the Castle from Leaming-
ton; to Jesmond Dene from Newcastle-on-Tyne.
Because he was curious about her Juliet, they
had read the Balcony Scene together in her lodg-
ings; her Juliet perhaps would not have pleased
him quite so much if it had been imybody's else,
but then her ambition did not lie in the direction
of Shakespeare and blank verse. He had shown
her he adored her in the most flattering way—
THE ACTOR-MANAGEH 187
by endeavouring to conceal it in obedience to her
command. She was a very practical young
woman; she had erected as many "warnings" for
her guidance through Ufe as disfigure Hamp-
stead Heath; but, being a woman and young, it
was not astonishing that her feelings should have
She did not succumb to the weakness without a
struggle, and she mourned the circimistances by
which the weakness was caused. She had always
hoped to marry an influential man possessing a
large income; influential, because she did not wish
to contract a marriage that would necessitate
her leaving the theatre, but longed for notoriety;
possessing a large income, because she loved
luxury — more, fcad a passion for it; thirsted to
see her figure in s>ilk petticoats and satin corsets,
and to let them fall to the floor indifferently when
she undressed, since she had so many of them;
wanted to lie in a perfumed bath, and have her
maid bring her chocolate; and be surprised by a
friend as she nestled over her bedroom fire in a
wrapper that cost more than her best frocks to-
day. It had been her aim to avoid any errors
of judgment that would increase her difficulties;
and now she had been idiotic enough to become
fond of an actor without reputation or means.
Yes, Blanche Ellerton regretted having signed
188 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
for the tour of The Impostor very keenly when
she was cahn; only she was not always calm, and
these moments in which she shielded to sentiment
were as exquisite to herself as to the man she
Nevertheless she had no intention of shielding
to it unreservedly, and she wondered if it would
take her long to forget him when they separated;
if the nonsensical ache would be bad to bear.
The tour was drawing to a close, and after it
finished, of coiu-se, they would scarcely meet.
That was well! Perhaps he might come out to
Earl's Court once or twice, but not oftener cer-
tainly. Once or twice couldn't be helped. If
she had not asked him to call when they were
at the Dominion, however, she need never have
seen him again at all. How stupid she had been
to ask him I Still she had acted from business
motives; he had been very taken with her, and
how could she know but what he might have
another play produced in London soon? Yes,
she had been quite right — ^that she would be a
fool about him later was a thing she couldn't
foresee. She stretched her arms above her head
and yawned. Heigho, these beastly rooms!
Oh, she was dull! What a shame it was that
a woman like herself should be moped in poky
lodgings, and have to buy two-and-elevenpenny
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 189
house-shoes I And she had such pretty feet I
Royce would . . . yes, Royce would like her
feet. . . . How ridiculously he thought of her I
— ^and she had really been quite candid that night
when he popped. Perhaps not quite so candid
since. When one liked a man, of course one did,
naturally, take a little pose of Well, one
sjrmpathetically adopted his favourite key. A
woman, though, would have known her for ever
after that night. . . . Men were very much nicer
than women. If He was a darling! Why
wasn't she a woman who could afford to be
absurd? it would be lovely to marry him I
Wouldn't it be lovely? She wasn't yearning
now, she was smiling. The street-door bell rang,
and she quivered with a hope which she felt to be
childish, for he never came unless he was invited.
It was his voice! She sprang up, and dragged
the powder-puff from her pocket, and pulled at
her favourite curl, and threw herself back in a
graceful position before he had wiped his boots.
"'Come in," she said languidly. Then on a
note of surprise: "Fow?"
"Am I in the way?" asked Oliphant, his eyes
devouring her. "I've had good news, and I — I
wanted to tell you about it."
"Good news ? No ; sit down, do 1 What is it ?"
"It's an offer."
140 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"Yes, more! I go to the Pantheon. Greatorex
oflFers me Faust!"
It does not merit contempt that her first emo-
tion was a pang of jealousy; or, if you must
be contemptuous, despise human nature and
not Blanche Ellerton. It was inevitable that
she should be envious. For an actor to be
chosen from the provinces to play "seconds" to
Greatorex — ^to create such a part as Faust before
a first-night audience at the Pantheon — ^was
almost the highest conceivable compliment. The
Impostor company had been shaken to the core
recently when the whisper ran round the dress-
ing-rooms that "Greatorex was in front." They
had watched him from the wings, and acted at
him from the stage; they had all — even to the
hmnblest among them — dreamed their dreams in
secret for a day or two and pictured the opening
of a note that would mean that their abilities
were recognised at last. And the unlikely
honour of an "offer" from Greatorex had fallen
— but on Mm; and she remained where she was.
"I am so glad," she murmured. "Well, you
are simply made nowi"
"I'm on the road, I think," he said. "I ought
never to look back after this if I*m all right in
the part. Of coiu'se I'm already quaking with
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 141
the ghastly misgiving that I shan't be found all
"What nonsense! Besides, it will be all
Mephistopheles, you may be sure/* She couldn't
help saying that, and after it was uttered she
felt more generous towards him. "You'll be a
success/' she added ; "I'm certain of it. I'll come *
and see you."
"WiU you? Not the first night? Good
heavens, how nervous I shall be I"
"I don't suppose I could get seats for the first
night if I tried. You may send me a couple
if you like; but I daresay you won't be able to
get them either. I say, you will be a swell now;
how you'll look down on us poor people I"
Oliphant laughed, with a reproach on his face.
"If I'm anxious to get on, it's that you may like
"What a cruel thing to say 1" she replied, smil-
ing. "And what a story, too! Didn't you want
to get on before we knew each other?"
"Not so much."
"Now you're making fun of me — that's un-
kind. When did you hear? You must tell me
all about it!"
She did not want to talk herself yet; she
wanted to think. She looked musingly at the
"Weighing of the Deer," surmounted by a Japa-
148 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
nese fan, between the windows. The question in
her mind was, How much difference did this piece
of luck make? Common-sense answered ''None/'
firmly. His engagement might be a thing of
the past in six months, and have left him just
what he was now, excepting that for the rest of
his life he would pepper his conversation with
inapposite remarks, beginning, ''That reminds
me of an experience I had when I was with
Greatorex." No, it could make no difference
to anybody who wasn't a love-sick girl eager to
find an excuse for being silly 1 A few months'
rapture. And the price? Two-and-elevenpenny
slippers to the day she died; a cheap existence
burdened with babies, and enhvened by the
perusal of panegyrics passed on the women who
had outstripped her in the race!
"Supposing," said Oliphant, "I get good
notices, and I remain there for the next pro-
duction, and for years?"
"I hope you will."
"It would be a grand engagement — one could
scarcely hope for anything finer."
"You'd have been very fortunate indeed."
He left his seat, and went over to her side.
"You said if you married, it would have to be
a successful man. Blanche, I am succeeding;
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 148
and with you Oh, we should go right to the
top together 1"
She bit her lip, and her eyelids fell.
^'Blanche — ^may I call you Blanche?"
'"Yes," she said, almost inaudibly.
''Blanche, my darling, be kind to me I Oh,
marry me, for God's sake — now, to-morrow!
LfCt's risk everything! You shall never regret
it. I swear you shan't! Will you?"
She shook her head; she didn't wish to trust
her voice again just yet.
"Don't you like me at all?" he demanded
impetuously. "Not a little bit?" Her silence
continued, but her head was motionless. He
dropped on to the stool beside her armchair and
seized her hands, and showered kisses on them
till she snatched them away because they were
playing her false.
"Oh, be sensible!" she exclaimed. "In a year
we should hate each other!"
"I would worship you! You don't know me
if you think I could ever love you less."
"I know myself. I wasn't meant for domes-
ticity in the back-parlour — I wasn't meant for
domesticity at all. I'm an artist; I've my own
life to live, my own ambitions to satisfy. I want
to be paragraphed, and interviewed, and photo-
graphed, and run after. You couldn't give me
144 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
one of these things I want. I know it — I know it
as well as if I'd been your wife ten years. Quite
the reverse I You'd make everything more diffi-
cult for me — impossible for me I If you do get
on, what then? What good will it do m^?"
"I'd buy the world for you I"
"With good intentions? You can never be a
rich man, my dear boy and if you marry, you
will always be a poor one. You may succeed —
I think you wiU succeed — ^but your success will
mean a name, not a fortune. Then what have
you to oflFer for spoiling my career? Am I to be
content to sit in the stalls all my life, and hear
you applauded?" She beat the treacherous hands
in her lap, the bitterer because she was fighting
against her heart. "What can any ordinary man
oflFer a girl who has a future without him? Mar-
riage is all very well for women with no profes-
sion — as a Home for the Helpless — they were
nonentities anyhow. But what does it give to
a woman like me in return for all it costs? /
don't need to be presented with shelter. I should
be a lunatic!"
"Plenty of married women have been famous
actresses," urjged Royce; "very few famous
actresses haven't married. And I may have a
theatre one day; I know a man who would help
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 145
She had small faith in the man.
'T)o you think marriage made the struggle any
easier for them?" she retorted.
"Yes, I do, if their husbands loved them, and
could sympathise with their ideas. Besides, to
be an artist, a woman must love I"
"Yes," she said, "but to be a poor man's wife
she must be a fooL"
He choked with mortification and pain.
"You care nothing about me, of course, or you
couldn't argue so."
"No," she said, inwardly triumphant, "I sup-
pose that's true."
He left, cursing the vanity by which he had
deceived himself. And she bit a hole in her
handkerchief and cried.
They spoke together in the wings briefly that
evening; indeed for two or three evenings there
was restraint between them. Perhaps it would
have lasted longer, but on Saturday night he
happened to hear that by a chapter of accidents
she had been unable to arrange for apartments
in the next town and would have to look for
some when she arrived. Even the worst-paid
members of a theatrical company engage tlieir
rooms by letter; for the trifling reduction in the
rent that may be obtained by a personal applica-
tion does not compensate for the dreariness of
tramping from address to address after a long
journey until a vacant lodging is found. He
begged her to take his. She refused; and "vow-
ing she would ne'er consent, consented."
As it was now Oliphant who had no rooms and
no dinner awaiting him, the lady insisted that he
should dine with her and share the chicken which
he had been the one to order. The circumstances
precluded formality, and the estrangement was
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 147
at an end. He was thankful that it had been a
chicken. It might easily have been half a pound
of steak, which would have been awkward.
Still he was resolved never to revert to the
subject of his love for her again; and he kept his
resolution so well that she grew hungry for the
music of the tale tabooed. Perhaps that was
why she did not hesitate when he suggested an-
other excursion. It may not have been so, but
even if it was, her inconsistency was equalled by
his own, for this excursion that he meditated was
a veritable sentimental journey, aggravated by
the proposed companionship.
A few miles distant lay a country town which
was intimately associated with his boyhood. He
had gone there with his father seventeen years
ago, and never seen it since. He had scarcely
seen it, in fact, when he bade it good-bye, for
he had bidden good-bye to his first sweetheart
at the same time, and been blind with tears. The
maiden had been twelve, and he a stout thirteen.
During a long heartache he had made abortive
eflForts to paint the scene of this early romance
in water-colours on cartridge paper. He failed,
not because his memory of the spot had weak-
ened, but because he had never painted anything
hitherto excepting a dog kennel. The best pic-
ture was the intangible one that disappeared
148 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
when he woke; for he dreamed of arriving at
the little station, and surprising Mary Page in
the orchard — ^her name was Mary Page — vividly
and often; and he could never eat his breakfast
on the morning after the dream occurred, so sick
was he with the longings of his little soul, the
craving for the sight of Mary Page's plaits. He
now found himself as a man in the vicinity of
the place for which he had yearned so desperately
as a child, and he wanted to look at it again with
Blanche EUerton by his side.
They had an hour's journey, for the train
travelled with intense deliberation, and stopped
at every opportunity. At last, however, they
arrived, and Royce, who discovered that the
hallowed station had been enlarged, inquired the
way to some wooden steps.
"There are some wooden steps leading to a
road with a hedge on each side, aren't there?"
He was told there were not, and was discon-
"If there aren't," he said to Miss EUerton,
"I'm afraid it's a failure. There were two houses
in a private lane, but I don't know what the lane
was called — I don't think it was called anything.
The houses were Mowbray Lodge and Rose
Villa. / lived at Mowbray Lodge. I could walk
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 149
there blindfolded from the top of those steps.
They should be just here — IVe stood on them
a thousand times, and watched the sails of a
windmill go round/'
"Did your First Love lean there with you?"
asked the actress; "it sounds like it."
"No, I don't remember her there; she was
always in the orchard opposite the two houses."
"Eating green apples I"
"They were ripe — and the best apples I've
ever tasted. Here's somebody else I There are,"
he repeated, "some wooden steps close by, lead-
ing to a road with a hedge on each side, aren't
"Lord love yer," answered the native, "there
ain't been no steps 'ere this ten year I" He
seemed to think the question very foolish, and
continued his way.
"Rip Van Winkle, the steps have vanished,"
said Miss EUerton. "What next?"
Royce pondered, and looked about him.
"Well, the road can't be gone, at any rate,"
he said. "Perhaps it's at the top of this slope?
I didn't notice we were on a slope, did you?
Shall we try?"
She thought it a good idea; and the road was
"Ha," cried the young man radiantly, "how
160 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
it all comes back to me I I hear my own moun-
tain-goats bleating aloft, and know the sweet
strain that the corn-reapers sing. But I'm sorry
they've taken away those steps! We go over
the bridge, and the lane is on the right. Isn't it
pretty? I wish we'd come in smnmer, though!"
"It's very pretty now," she said.
The entrance to the lane occurred unexpect-
edly, at least to her ; the low wall above which the
trees waved made a quick curve, and was lost
in a laurel-bush. Oliphant urged her forward
joyously, and then they were on the other side
of the wall, and opposite a gate which divided
them from a weed-grown carriage-drive. He
said: "Mowbray Lodge!" And when he lifted
the growth of encroaching creeper, the name was
indeed visible — ^which was to him like a kiss from
the past. After a minute they came to another
house, also lying back from the lane behind a gate
and carriage-drive; and this time he said "Rose
"Are you satisfied?" she smiled.
"I am sad," he declared quite truthfully,
though a moment before he had been delighted.
*T)o you see that fence? It separates the Mow-
bray Lodge and Rose Villa gardens. It was
across that fence I first saw her. Come, I'll show
you the orchard that I used to try to paint But
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 161
— oh, this is quite diflFerentI None of that glass
was there; it was all open — it had nothing, noth-
ing at all, except the apple-trees and two chil-
dren. Look, there's a man in his shirt-sleeves,
digging. Let's go over to him I"
The ground had been acquired by Mr. 'Obbs,
the florist in the 'Igh Street, they learnt; and
both the houses were to let. "Page"? Yes, the
man remembered the name of Page. The father
had been a doctor, hadn't he? They had been
gone — oh, a matter of nine years.
"I believe you're sorry you came," said Miss
EUerton gaily. "Did you expect to find Mary
waiting for you?"
^'It would have been romantic to find her living
here still, wouldn't it? Though, of course, she
wouldn't have known me. But I don't think it's
Mary I'm melancholy about so much as "
He sighed. "I don't know — ^it's so pathetic to
be *grown up.' "
She accepted it as a jest, and laughed; but
he had spoken quite seriously. Thoughts of his
childhood crowded on him. His father used to
stroll along this lane in the sunset, with a pipe
between his lips. There was no sunset now, and
the lips were cold, but the dead day lived again
to Oliphant. His sweetheart, Mary with the
158 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
golden plaits, must be — ^how old? Nine-and-
twentyl He realised it with a shock. If it had
been nineteen I But nine Mid twenty! There
was tragedy in the difference between such an age
and twelve. And the boy he recalled so tenderly,
where was he? Gone too. He would have loved
to commune with him, as the boy had always
looked forward to his doing. How beautiful a
comrade! But life was so large, and the boy
had been lost, somewhere among the years, and
was only a memory.
"At this point," said Miss EUerton, "an ex-
traordinary thing happens! You see the figure
of a young and lovely woman in a contemplative
attitude. And she is Mary Page revisiting her
old home. It would act welL Could you play
"The heroine would speak first," said Royce,
rousing himself. "What would she say?"
"Oh, she begins with a question. She says:
"Excuse me, but can you tell me if there is a
caretaker here? — I see the house is to let.' "
" 'I am a stranger,* " answered Oliphant; "I
am sorry I don't know.' "
" 'I saw you coming from the garden. I
fancied perhaps ' "
" 'I've been guilty of trespassing. I knew that
garden well once ; I couldn't pass it by.' "
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 168
" Tot* knew it? Your"
" TDr. Page lived here in the days I speak of.' "
" T)r. Page was my father's name.' "
"* Your father? Mary! Oh, forgive me I But
— am I quite forgotten?' "
" *You — are — ^Royce — Oliphant? Oh, this is
wonderful indeed 1' "
They looked in each other's eyes and laughed
together. Then a shadow crossed the girl's face,
and she said half playfuUy, half in earnest:
"I do believe that's just what you'd really
"To see Mary here and make love to her. But
I daresay she's fat and ugly, and you'd be dis-
"She had a beautiful nature," said Oliphant.
"I hope that hasn't got ugly."
"A 'beautiful nature' — a brat of twelve I
What did she do — always give you the lemon-
peei oflF her cake? I should look for her and
marry her if I were you."
"I expect she married long ago. Why have
you turned cross all of a sudden?"
"Cross?" she echoed with amazement. "I'm
not in the least cross. . . . Only this is rather
dull, you know, standing about a wet lane and
pretending to be somebody else."
164 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
^'Why," he cried, paling, "it was you who sug-
gested that I If I*d guessed it bored you
Let's go I I*m ever so sorry."
"I don't want to go; I'm tired. I want," she
said imperiously, "to sit down on that bench, and
have some bims and lemonade."
"Won't you come and have some tea?"
"No, thank you," she said . . . "Well, shall
we go home?"
"Will you stay here half an hour alone?"
"As well as I remember there isn't a shop
anywhere near; but if you don't mind waiting,
I'll race into the town."
"Very well," she assented. "I'll wait for you."
Although the task that she had set him was a
troublesome one to fulfil, and though she looked
triumphant when he returned in a heat to min-
ister to her requirements, she ate only a fragment
of bun, and sipped but little of the lemonade.
This puzzled him very much. He decided, at
last, that she must have grown faint during the
delay; and he said so. And then she seemed to
smile involuntarily, which puzzled him more.
However, her amiability was restored.
Presently she said in a careless tone:
"What do you call a ^beautiful nature'? I
mean in a woman?"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 166
"I don't foUow you."
''You used the expression about something.
Oh yes I You said that that child had a beautiful
nature, that was it I"
"Well, it's rather difficult to define," replied
"You mean 'unpractical,* I suppose?"
"Say 'unworldly/ "
"It's the same thing — diet's keep to 'unpracti-
cal'! Why — why should men look down on a
woman for being practical? They don't look
down on one another, do they?"
"I don't think it's true that they do look down
"Yes, it is," she said; "they want women to
"Only men who are fools themselves."
"Do you think you're a fool?"
"I dxytt't want women to be fools."
"But you despise a girl for being sensible."
"I don't know what you mean." He was be-
ginning to be troubled.
"You do," she said with a catch in her voice.
"You despise me/"
The gardener in his shirt-sleeves had disap-
peared. Where they sat, Oliphant could see
nothing but the trees and her distress. Emotion
166 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
for an instant held him dumb; but it was for an
Then it was she who was troubled by the blaze
she had made, though warmed at the same time
by the ardour of it.
"No, no," she said, "I told you it was impos-
"But you shall — ^you shall! I won't let you
go till you say TTes.' "
"You are mad to want me. I'm a piece of
"I'd kiss you into life if you were!"
"I'm not good enou^ for you. Oh, believe,
believe I'm not I"
"My Gkxl, there's nobody on earth like you I
Tell me you love me."
"I don't I"
"You do I and you shall say it. TeU me I"
"Tell me you love me I"
"I'm stronger than you think — I won't!"
He began to fear that she never would; and
indeed she did not say it. But the next second
her face turned whiter, and she flung her arms
round his neck. And after all they were engaged.
And the moment when she first regretted it
was seven hours later, after the candle was out,
when she lay thinking. But the next morning,
when she was in his arms, she was reckless again
They did not love each other, but both were
violently in love, and thought they did. But
the woman's self-knowledge was at least greater
than the man's, and she knew that there could
never be any person in the world whom she loved
quite so dearly as herself. Therefore she was
exigent and imperious, and if he had been less
infatuated, would have appeared imreasonable
in the demands she made upon his time; for she
wished to stifle the knowledge and the voice of
wisdom, and when he was with her she succeeded.
As he asked no better than to be with her all
day long, it was only when the candle was out
that the voice of wisdom had a listener.
And then she argued with it, and said that it
was maligning her, and that she was a much nicer
168 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
girl than it knew. It was a fact that she was
forsaking her faith, but since it had been a false
faith she was acting wisely to desert it. She was
Of course at home they wouldn't rejoice I She
hesitated to write the news; and then decided to
write it quickly, so that they might have time to
accustom themselves to the idea before she saw
them. It would mean more novelettes, or in-
creased economy; she wasn't going to continue
to help them after she was married — ^it wouldn't
be fair to Royce. A woman's first duty was to
her husband. Besides, it would be horrid to
have to admit to him that her people were in
such straitened circumstances. No; Royce, poor
boy, was burdening his back to win her — every
shilling that she earned belonged to liiml • . .
Mother — who would feel the diflFerence most —
would behave best about it. Father would
advise her to take years to make up her mind,
and be doubly disagreeable to mother. Grer-
trude? Gertrude would be jealous of her as
usual. On the whole the house would be none
too pleasant during her engagement; she was
sorry she had to return to it. . . . How Royce,
though, would loathe taking her salary, the dearl
And going to the Pantheon as he was, he could
certainly do without it — at all events if she didn't
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 159
have a baby. Probably he would refuse to touch
a penny of it and tell her to keep it for pocket-
money. Really their life would be quite charm-
ing I With nothing to do with her salary but
buy frocks and hats And then Royce would
want to give her frocks and hats as welll Oh,
she was glad, glad she was being brave, and
marrying for love — (xod had been yery good to
The Impostor company disbanded at St. Pan-
eras a few Sundays later. Sunday was addition-
ally tedious to her and Oliphant now, for — ^the
men and women being divided when they
travelled — this was the day on which they saw
least of each other. When St. Pancras was
gained, the lovers had not spoken together for
more than two minutes during three hours. Oli-
phant hurried to her compartment at once.
There were general handshakes amid the clamour
for cabs. Many of the company who had become
staunch friends would not meet again for years,
as has been said before, and names and faces
alike would be forgotten ; but this afternoon they
were still comrades, and the men exclaimed: "Ta,
ta, dear boy I I suppose you turn up in the
Strand?** and the women kissed one another
affectionately, and repeated, "Now, mind you
160 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
Royce and the girl stood on the platform con-
ferring. It had been arranged that he should
not go out to Earl's Court before the morrow;
but all at once both felt the manner of their
parting to be melancholy, and he begged that
instead of their separating at the station, she
would at least let him drive some of the way with
her. She said "yes" readily enough, so he had
his own luggage deposited in the cloak-room, and
got into her hansonL
Needless to say, she had made use of her
powder-puff before the train stopped; and she
was one of the women who knew how to tie a
veiL She put on her gloves well, too. She could
not help their quality, but she didn't commit the
infamy of buying them tight, and skipping the
first button. Women's hands were meant to be
squeezed, but she knew they were not meant to
be squeezed into gloves. Oliphant took Blanche
EUerton's hand, and thought what a wonderful
thing it was to be a woman. There was no power
like it! What a delicate little nose she had; and
how tempting her lips were under the net I
"Darling I" he said; "put your veil up."
"Oh, I can't I People would see us."
"The street's empty; look I"
So for ten seconds she put up her veiL
"I've been miserable all the journey," he said.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 161
She confessed eoquettisfaly that she also had
found it dull; and after he had rhapsodised:
"I wish this fellow wouldn't drive so fasti"
he exclaimed; "I don't know how I shall get
through this evening. You'll have your people;
but / shall have nothing — only your likenesses."
" 'Only' indeed! Give 'em back to me if you
don't appreciate them."
"Oh, you know what I mean!"
"Do I? "
"I shall spend the time writing you a letter."
"Silly Billyl You won't? Not really?"
"I believe I shall 1 Blanche, you're quite sure
they won't make obstacles to-morrow when I
come? You won't keep me waiting a year for
"Is a year long?" she murmured, gleaming
"Oh," he cried, "a year I It's going to be soon,
"Well, we'll see how good you are I Why are
you in such a hurry?"
"Because I love you! love you I love you I . . .
Have I torn it? — oh, I'm so sorry I Why did you
pull it down again? • . • Blanche 1"
"Where shall we live?"
162 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"My dearT* she laughed. "This is very previ-
"No, it isn't; what have we to wait for? We
could take a little house somewhere to-morrow;
we could furnish it on the hire-system. And we
can save a heap out of my salary. Even if I left
the Pantheon after Faust we should have plenty
to live on till I got something else."
"Yes/* she said; "we shouldn't starve, I know.
Don't forget there's my salary as well."
"Yours?" he exclaimed; "yes, there's yours,
of course; but I don't want you to buy your own
bread-and-butter, sweetheart. It isn't as if I
were still getting five pounds a week and we
couldn't marry unless we clubbed together."
"Don't be so ridiculous," she answered, warm
with happiness; "what do you suppose I'm going
to do with the money then? You'll tell me next
you want me to leave the profession!"
"I won't do that — because I know how
wretched you'd be. But there's one thing I
want; I want you to remain in town. You won't
go on tour if I'm in London, Blanche?"
She hesitated. "Not from choice, naturally.
I should like London shops myself."
"But I mean assuming you can't get one, and
you are offered a tour; you wouldn't accept it?"
"But if I didn't, I might be out for a year at
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 168
a stretch; to all intents and purposes I shotdd be
leaving the profession."
"Oh, nonsense r' he said cheerfully; "if / can
stop in town, you can certainly 1 It's easier for
a girl to get on than for a man."
"They say it is, as a rule. But there are
exceptions to every rule, aren't there?"
"The proper thing would be joint engage-
"Yes, that would be simply charming," she
said. "Do you think you could get me into the
Pantheon? Oh, Royce, wouldn't it be simply
sweet if you could get me into the Pantheon!"
"I'll try, you may be sure; but, of course, it*s
a difficult theatre for a woman — I don't quite
know what you could do at the Pantheon. Still
I shan't be there for ever; we'll go to a house
where you can be lead — although as / shan't
be lead, that won't be unalloyed bliss either. I
don't want to see another fellow making love to
you in every part you play I"
"As if it mattered I" she said scornfully. "I
shouldn't know he was there."
"Wouldn't you? / should I It sounds a selfish
sentiment, Blanche, but upon my soul I almost
begin to wish you hadn't been an actress at all."
"How abominable 1 Oh I" She turned aston-
164 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
ished eyes. "What a perfectly philistine thing
to say I"
"Yes, I know," returned Oliphant with a help-
less smile; "I know it's very philistine — ^that's
exactly what I thought you'd call it. But I
worship the ground you walk on, and the hat
that's been on your head, and — and that veil
I've torn on your face. My dear, you don't
know what you are to me. I shall be green with
jealousy every time the hero puts his arm around
She drooped a little, so that her shoulder
"And what about m^," she said, "when you
make love to the ingenue?"
"Oh, Blanche, you know that's quite diflFerentI"
"Is it— why?"
He could not explain precisely why; so he held
her hand again behind the apron of the cab. At
last he said:
"Well, when we have that theatre of our own,
'all wiU be gas and gaiters' !"
"Ah I" she said; "and drive home together to
Cadogan Square or somewhere in our brough-
"Can you see it — you and me in management?"
She had seen it. She saw Cadogan Square and
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 165
"Not Shakespeare all the time, dearest boy/'
she said, "eh?"
"No, not Shakespeare all the time — rather not;
very little Shakespeare. But I think you and
I would do good work together for all that;
shouldn't we? We shall have it — I shall get on I
All I needed was to meet you — to encourage me,
and keep me up to the mark. If I'm ever
tempted to sink the artist, refuse to live with me,
and say I won you by false pretences. No, seri-
ously, you'll be the making of me. A man by
himself is apt to get his ideals blunted — ^the
world's hard, and it takes the edge oflF them; but
a girl like you would keep a fellow an artist to
the end of time."
She could never quite understand what his
ideals were, though she had often listened to him
on the subject. Now, however, when he said that
a girl like herself was such a boon and a blessing
his meaning seemed momentarily clearer. She
gave a sigh of response, and felt holy.
It is an error to suppose that Earl's Court
is never adjacent to St. Pancras. They had
stopped at the comer of the street. Having
ascertained that the trap in the roof was down,
Oliphant said good-bye to her, and then got out,
and was astonished that so very short a drive
could be more than a shilling fare. She waved
166 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
her hand to him a second time, and the pleasure
within her had scarcely faded when she saw her
Mrs. Ellerton, who had been watching for her
arrival, behind the spiraea in the window, ran
to the door herself, and kissed her in the passage
almost as warmly as she desired to do. She had
not for years kissed her quite so warmly as she
desired to do; the girl confessed that she was not
demonstrative, and since the sununer when she
put her hair up, her mother had always been a
little afraid of a repulse.
Blanche followed her into the drawing-room.
As it was Sunday, and there might possibly be
callers, a fire had been lighted there.
"Tea will be ready directly," said Mrs. Eller-
ton; "I told Flora not to make it till you came.
Are you tired? Well, dear, I'm very pleased —
what I wrote you is quite true, I*m very, very
pleased. I wish we'd seen more of him; but, of
course, all that's to come. When you're rested,
you must tell us everything."
"Where are the others?" asked her daughter,
unpinning her hat, and plucking at her hair.
"What does father say about it?"
"Well, dear," said Mrs. Ellerton evasively, "of
course we shall have to manage a little better,
shan't we? And it's only proper that we should 1
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 167
You'll have your own home to think of, and we
can't expect things to be quite the same. But
we couldn't hope to keep you with us always; it
was only to be supposed that this would happen
some day. And I do, do hope you've chosen
well, Blanche, and that he'll make you very
happy!" She half opened her arms, but the girl
was still arranging her hair in the looking-glass
and did not seem to see.
The novelist and Gertrude joined them now,
followed by the general servant with the teapot.
"I think I'll go upstairs and get my boots off,"
said Blanche after the greetings. "Can Flora
take up my basket? Gertie, you might help her."
"That's a new coat," observed Gertrude, re-
garding her enviously; "you're always buying
new things! / can't help her with that great
basket — I've been ill again. Why didn't you ask
"Leave it till to-morrow, dear," said her
mother; "one of the tradesmen will carry it up
in the morning. You can take out what you
want for to-night; I'll come and help you pres-
"I'll get my boots off at once; I shan't be a
minute. Is that toast? Don't let Gertie eat it
all before I come back — I'm hungry."
"How unromanticl" said Gertrude; "we
168 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
thought perhaps you*d eat less now you're in
love. And my frocks are all on one side of the
wardrobe again, and I've left you have the chest
of drawers; so don't go taking pegs that don't
belong to you I I'm very glad to see you again,
Blanche, but you do make a difference to the
bedroom, I must say."
"Never mind," said Blanche; "you'll soon have
one all to yourself for the rest of your life I"
The toast was in the fender when she returned;
and her father, a moment afterwards, approached
the momentous subject facetiously.
"So we are going to be married?" he said, stir-
ring his tea. " *There is nothing half so sweet
in life ' Is the happy day fixed?"
"No; it isn't fixed. Mr. Oliphant is coming to
see you all to-morrow."
"What time, my dear?" inquired her mother
with anxiety. "Will he come to dinner? We've
been dining at two since you've been away; I
suppose while you're not doing anything, we may
as well keep to it?"
"It's a fimny time to dine, isn't it? What was
wrong with five?"
"Well, dear, so is five a fimny time for any-
body who hasn't to play at night. And you've
no idea how much cheaper middle-day dinner
comes out; we have a haddock or eggs at seven,
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 169
and it only means a meat meal once a day. If
you don't mind "
"Oh, it doesn't matter," said the girl, shrug-
ging her shoulders; "do as you please — ask him
to stay to eggs I"
"We shall be glad to see Mr. Oliphant," said
the author. "But is he — I hesitate to express
myself, Blanche! Is he coming to ask my
opinion? I inquire because I'm reluctant to tell
you my opinion. We can't, among ourselves,
ignore the fact that you have, from time to time,
been of — er — assistance to the household. My
opinion might, on that account, be misconstrued."
"I suppose you mean you don't think I ought
to marry him?" she said for answer.
He made a gesture expressive of helplessness.
"As I say, I hesitate to tell you what I think.
It seeTTis to me to be a rash step, on both sides.
You have always been a clever girl. You've the
right to expect a husband in a first-rate position
— your good looks, your talent, all give you the
right. If you waited, there is no doubt you
would marry into a good position. In choosing
a young man, an unknown young man, in an
exceptionally precarious calling, you seem to me
to be throwing yourself away. But though this
%8 my opinion, it's perhaps not worth uttering.
170 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
because — ^it's painful to say — ^because you may
believe it to be the outcome of self-interest."
"But she loves him, James,*' said her mother
"My dearl" replied Mr. Ellerton with a fine
smile, "we are not discussing the plot of a penny
"I don't suppose I should marry into Park
Lane if I waited till I was grey," murmured the
"I don't suppose you would; but between Park
Lane and penury there are a great many grades.
I should have been satisfied to see you engaged
to a man with influence, who could give you the
chance in the profession that you deserve. You
would have been a celebrated woman then; I am
sure of it I Now You may be happy now,
if domestic life can content you; but I fear you'll
never be celebrated. You may go on struggling,
but you're handicapping yourself; instead of
marriage helping you forward, it will drag you
back. I've heard you express your own views
of marriages like this; why have they changed all
of a sudden?" He regarded her with an air of
innocent surprise. "Why have they changed all
of a sudden?" he repeated. "And further, I am
sorry for Mr. Oliphant! For him, too, it's a
blunder. Marriage is the end of a man's youth.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 171
By himself Mr. Oliphant might rise, but you
and your babies will be a weight that'll ruin him.
Don't / know what it is — the strain of support-
ing a wife and family? Don't / know what it
is to be crippled for life by an early marriage?
My dear girl, the best woman becomes a burden
to a man!" The wife who was keeping him
winced, and her eyes filled. She did not speak,
however. "No, Blanche, since you really want
to know what I think, I think you are behaving
like a short-sighted child. The difference your
marriage will make to ils is not vital — I shall
have to write a little more, that is all — but the
difference it will make to you^ to say nothing of
him, I regret. Yes; I regret it."
"I thought you would," she said insolently.
"Well, I'm going to marry himl And you may
talk till you're tired — and I shall marry him!"
There was a long silence in the room. Ger-
trude's attention reverted to the coat, which had
been tossed on to the sofa, and she wondered how
much it had cost, and mentally compared it with
some coats that had been "marked down" last
month at a local sale. Mr. EUerton lit a pipe
with dignified deliberation, and the mother bent
her wet eyes on the fire, pitying everybody except
herself. She would have liked to feel the girl's
head in her lonely lap, and receive confidences
172 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and caresses, and plan the trousseau; but that
was how things happened in her novelettes at
which they all laughed.
"Won't you have some more tea, James?" she
said at last, with a nervous effort to sound at ease.
"No, thank you,*' replied the novelist, rising
with a heavy sigh; "no more. I'm afraid I
can't spare the time ; I must go back to the study,
my dear, and workl"
When Royce, rehearsing Faust at the Pan-
theon, dwelt on the fact that only a year before
he had been reduced to sixpenny dinners, while
he awaited his first London "appearance" at a
salary of two pounds a week, he thought how
amazed he ought to feel at his progress. This is
as near to being amazed at our progress as we
He had removed to rooms in Brunswick
Square, which is a better address than Burton
Crescent, and where he was on the whole less
comfortable, though he paid more rent. How-
ever, he did not propose to stay there long. Un-
less his Faust proved a failure and he received
his dismissal, Blanche and he might as well be
happy soon as late. The girl no longer demurred,
and it was arranged that they should marry early
in February soon after the play was produced.
The usual honeymoon would, of course, be
impossible, and they meant to have the ceremony
on a Saturday, and go by the eleven fifty-five
174 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
train at night to Brighton, where they could
remain till Monday afternoon.
Mr. Ellerton had spared the young man the
arguments that he had wasted on the fiancee,
realising that since they had failed with his
daughter, it would be futile to repeat them to her
lover. Excepting that his air was rather gran-
diose indeed, Oliphant had found nothing to com-
plain of in his future father-in-law. Gertrude
was monosyllabic, and apparently characterless;
and Mrs. Ellerton he liked. It was with her that
he and Blanche discussed where they should live.
She considered that they would be very unwise
to take a house, even the cheapest; for though
they might expect to stay in town, who could say
but what they would both be on tour again to-
gether before long? — desirous as they were of
playing in the same theatre, it was likely enough!
Blanche inclined towards a small flat, but the
same objection applied to this; so they agreed
that, after all, the only plan was to make them-
selves comfortable in furnished apartments at
first. Furnished apartments where they would
put out their photographs and not have to pack
them up again at the end of a week, would really
be quite like home, she said. She privately de-
termined that they should not be at Earl's Court,
however. She meant, when she married, to begin
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 175
to form a circle of useful people, and she didn't
want her family dropping in on her at inoppor-
tune moments: father, who always referred to his
books, which nobody knew, and made one feel
so ashamed! and mother, with her ridiculous
novelettes in papers that no one had heard of
either 1 and Gertrude, who as soon as she learnt
that a man was expected, would always be fish-
ing for an invitation to come and play her fiddle I
Oh no. Earl's Court would be simply hateful I
It was a pity that a flat was out of the question
— a flat somehow suggested a circle. But the
privilege of living on the fourth floor or in the
basement, and viewing a blank wall from every
window, was very expensive, and if they were
to be away eight or nine months of the year, the
establishment would certainly be a white ele-
phant. It would not do for Royce to assume
too heavy responsibilities; preserve her from
leaving one atmosphere of money worries for.
another 1 — she wanted a respite from hearing
about the bills. Besides, remembering their pro-
fession, nice apartments would look natiural
The date on which the first performance of
Faust was to take place found Oliphant sick with
suspense. There was no rehearsal, and he went
out to the Ellertons' in the morning, and gath-
176 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
ered encouragement from the mouth of his Be-
loved. Although, when he received the offer, he
had declared that he would tremble to know she
was present on the first night, he had since re-
canted. They were engaged, and so it was
different; it was essential that she should be
there 1 He had brought four dress-circle tickets
to the house a few days earlier, and this morning
Blanche gave him a bunch of violets from her
bodice for luck.
In a tumbler of water it stood all the evening
on his dressing-table among the sticks of grease-
paint; and after each act, when he came off the
stage, he touched it. And though her violets
were not responsible, he liked to think they had
had something to do with his success when he
read his notices on the morrow. For finally and
with certainty he had "arrived." He could not
have acknowledged it to Blanche — though he
objected to perceive that he couldn't — but in a
fervour of thanksgiving he dropped on his knees
among the newspapers and muttered to God.
The girl's felicitations were wholly sincere this
time — he pertained to her now; and had not per-
tained to her sufficiently long for her to begin to
say: "So much we are one — ^and so much I am I,
and you are you I"
And it was with pride that she asked the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER ITT
Editors of The Era and The Stage to insert
paragraphs announcing that Miss Blanche EUer-
ton, who had "created" the part of "Lady Maud
Elstree" in Mr. Royce 01iphant*s drama The
Impostor J was engaged to be married to him.
Oliphant asked her why she did it, and she re-
plied: "Silly Billy, isn't it always a free adver-
tisement for us both?"
And it was two or three weeks after The
Speaker and The World had confirmed the pro-
nouncement of all the dailies, that he and she
went to Brighton by the eleven fifty-five.
The wedding had been the quietest possible.
For one thing the Ellertons could not afford an
expensive breakfast, and for another, neither the
bride nor the groom had many intimate friends.
So simple had it been that Royce even lacked a
best man; the men whom he knew best were mar-
ried and ineligible for the post. As for Otho
Fairbaim, apart from the objection that to ask
him would be to ask for an expensive present,
he had been heard of only once — full of a yacht
and vague projects — since the night when he
came "behind" at the Dominion. After the serv-
ice there was cold chicken and a sort of cham-
pagne in the drawing-room; and maternal tears
and a literary speech. And then Royce went
away, leaving his wife with her family. He
178 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
could not see her from the stage during the eve-
ning, but he knew she was up in the dress-circle
again; and when the curtain fell she went round
to the stage-door and waited for him. And it
wasn't a hansom in which he drove with her
to Victoria, it was a celestial car, and the occu-
pants of the ordinary cabs in the Strand received
his compassion. Poor people who were not just
married! She was his wife, his wife, his wifel
This was the moment when both first realised it.
Emotion kept him voiceless, and while they sped
between the passing lights to the jingle of the
horse's bell, the girl herself asked nothing better
than to be allowed to dream.
It wasn't a celestial car in which he drove with
her from Victoria to their apartments when they
returned, it was a hansom; still they were both
very happy. They had decided upon Maddox
Street; and when they entered their drawing-
room the table was laid for five-o'clock dinner,
for which they were a little late. A few things
went wrong — ^not quite so agreeable as the hotel!
But that was natural; and the landlady and the
servant would soon fall into their ways. The
photographs, and a plant or two put about, would
give the room a homely air. And they would
have some cut flowers on the mantel-piece every
morning. With Bond Street on one side and
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 179
Regent Street on the other, it would be quite
easy to obtain a plentiful supply.
About half -past six her husband left for the
theatre, and then Blanche lay on the sofa before
the fire and mused. Her first reflection was that
they must buy a couple of cushions; and next
she perceived that if they hired an upright piano,
it would improve the aspect of the room very
much. A good piano, left open, always looked
well. She thought she would have a black one,
and get a gilt basket of red azaleas to stand care-
lessly on the top.
So she was married — it was very wonderful I
He was a dear fellow. Would she ever be sorry?
. . . N-no.
Ah, she knew there was something she had
meant to do ! A cab accident that they witnessed
in the King's Road had suggested the idea. She
rang the bell, and borrowed a bottle of ink from
the landlady, and went into the bedroom and
unpacked her writing materials. While she was
in the bedroom, though, she might as well get
into her dressing-gown. When Royce came back
she would look nice lying on the sofa in her
dressing-gown. Its tint was pale blue, and she
had a pair of slippers to match it, embellished
with little paste buckles. When she had put on
the wrapper, and the shppers, she pulled all the
180 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
pins from her hair, and shook it over her shoul-
ders, smiling in the glass at her folly. She did
indeed look very charming so; and she returned
to the drawing-room complacently. She drew
a chair to the table, and dipped her pen in the
ink, and meditated. . . . "An accident which
might have turned a joyful occasion into a
tragedy " No, that wasn't good; and she
wanted to begin with her name — the name always
stood out more then. "Miss Blanche Ellerton,
who was married on Saturday last to Mr. Royce
Oliphant, narrowly escaped having no honey-
moon " She nibbled the penholder; "nar-
rowly escaped having no honeymoon" didn't
sound right — was it, or wasn't it, what she meant?
An accident like the one that had occurred to
somebody else in Brighton might easily have
happened to her and him when they were driving
from the Pantheon on Saturday night — she
might have been taken to a hospital instead of
to Brighton. "Miss Blanche Ellerton, who was
married on Saturday last to Mr. Royce Oli-
phant" — what a pity she couldn't say at St.
Peter's, Eaton Square — "had an experience
which fortunately does not fall to many brides.
As the newly-married pair were driving to the
station the horse fell down, and " Fell
down? Should one say "fell down" or only
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 181
"fell"? Cross out the "down" anyhow 1 "The
horse fell, and " Well, and what? It was
a beastly difficult thing to write a paragraph 1
She plunged her fingers into the unpinned
hair, and stared at her paper, with a frown.
She had only just completed the task when
Oliphant came in.
"Look!" she said triumphantly.
"I am looking," said he; "what a vision!"
"Oh," she murmured against his mouth, "that's
not what I meant; I meant what IVe written!
I'm going to post it in the morning."
His expression was less proud when he had
read the paragraph.
"Do you — do you think that's necessary?" he
said. "I can't say it's the sort of thing I believe
in! It's very questionable if they'll print it;
and if they do "
"If they do, what?"
"The taste is questionable still."
"Why, Royce," she exclaimed with surprise,
"what do you mean? You know the value of a
paragraph siu-ely? The more one can get, the
better; and poor me, I seldom get oner
"But this isn't true. I hate lies even if they
don't hurt anybody."
" 'Lies' is a werry big word to use about it
188 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
And don't you ever say anything that isn't quite
"I suppose I've told a good many ^polite' lies;
I've never told one for my own advantage that
She gave him a little kiss on the cheek, and
held up a finger laughingly.
"It's a good thing you have a business woman
to take care of you at last. Oh, Silly Billy ! Well,
what have you got to tell me? I suppose you
had a packed house as usual?"
She found the evenings dull during his absence,
and was eager for another engagement. Some-
times, however, she took a hansom up to the
Pantheon about eleven o'clock, and they went to
supper at a restaurant. This was jolly. They
seldom chose the same place twice, because the
restaiurants were new to them both, and they
wished to gain experience. Royce took her to
Dolibo's first of alL It was his second visit there,
and when he had gone with Rayne, he and she
had never met. So they were bound to drink
champagne I And on subsequent evenings when
they went to supper, if they had not had cham-
pagne, the jaunt would have seemed rather a
The proximity of Bond Street provided them
with a very pleasant thoroughfare to stroll in on
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 188
fine afternoons. It did not cost two persons the
amount of Royce's salary to live, even with occa-
sional suppers in restaiurants, and so they could
look at the shop-windows and buy hats. It was
not a solitary occurrence for them to disagree
as to which hat became her better; and when he
had yielded to her opinion, he begged her to yield
to his — and she said that it was "simply prodigal"
of him, and that she wouldn*t hear of such a
thing. But he came out victorious. They liked
to saunter through the Biurlington Arcade also.
The early illimiination of the windows there often
lured them in from the cold daylight of Picca-
dilly; and the gloves, and the garters, and the
notepaper were attractive trifles to a man with
a fascinating woman by his side. After all, they
were practically on their honeymoon, though they
were in town; and a very cosy honeymoon it was.
Just as they had prophesied, the landlady "fell
into their ways" with the ready perception that
distinguishes the genus — and the "extras" in
their bills were a sight to see.
When they had been in Maddox Street about
six weeks Blanche was oflfered an engagement at
the Sceptre. She was to receive eight pounds a
week. This did not seem so startling to her as it
would have done before Oliphant went to the
Pantheon, but she still counted it high terms, and
184 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
she was very much elated. Royce was pleased
by the news because it pleased her, and it was
not until after she had come home with the part
folded in her muff that their first difference arose.
From a professional point of view it was an
extremely good part; from Oliphant's, it was a
very offensive one. She was to play a courtesan ;
and as courtesans in drama are much more bril-
liant than courtesans in life, she had to utter
several epigrams which he objected to his wife's
delivering. He tried to induce her to cancel the
engagement, and their argument grew heated.
"I never heard anything so ridiculous I" she
exclaimed; "it is simply phihstine I I Really
I'm surprised at you I Cancel it ? Why, my dear
boy, if I make a hit at the Sceptre, just look what
it means I One would think you were I don't
"I'm your husband," he replied; "that's what
I am. I respect you, darling; the greater the
hit you made, the worse I should feeL"
"Thank you," she said indignantly.
"Don't misimderstand me on purpose. The
point is "
"The point is that you're being philistine,
simply philistine I"
"Yes, you said that before. It's always you
who find me philistine — X don't think X was
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 186
thought so by anyone else. Come, don't let's
wrangle, Blanche" — he sat down on the couch,
and put his arm round her waist — '"y^^ know
yourself it isn't a nice part; now, is it?"
"I don't think that's the way to look at it at
all; I didn't know you did look at things in that
way. I've heard you say that a dramatist should
be free to take any characters he pleased — ^the
most abandoned. Haven't you?"
"I never said I wanted my wife to play them,"
answered Oliphant doggedly.
"Ohl" She left his side, and walked about the
room. "You're not consistent. I'm an artist.
I don't recognise such rotten suburban distinc-
tions! I thought you were an actor, Royce.
Upon my word you make me gasp 1"
"Put yourself in my place! Is it astonishing
that I should blush to know my wife was sneer-
ing at decency every evening to make a crowd
titter? I hope I am an actor, but I was a man
"Oh, yes — and you were going to be a parson
first I To hear you talk, I — I almost think it's
a pity you changed your mind."
Oliphant did not reply for some seconds. The
colour had gone out of his face, and his eyes were
"As a matter of fact," he said in a sharp voice.
186 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"there is no question of my consistency here, for
the part has nothing to do with art/'
"You know a great deal about the piece, don't
you," she retorted, "considering you didn't hear
"I know what the man is capable of who wrote
it, and I know this character. 'Character'?
There's no character in it, only cheap cynicism.
'There is some soul of goodness in things evil'!
But what does this teach; what is it for? — she
isn't a woman. She came out of a writing-table
to wear Paris frocks and amuse the stalls."
"Ohl" she cried; "'Teach'? Tor'? She's for
eight pounds a week and to get big notices I
Don't be a f ooL"
"Well, you shouldn't irritate me. I think it's
very cruel of you to make childish difficulties,
instead of being nice and congratulating me on
my good luck. I do, Royce" — she whimpered a
little, and pressed her handkerchief to her eyes —
"I think it's very cruel!"
"Blanche!" It was a diflferent "Blanche" this
"You — ^you've disappointed me very much. I
came home so happy."
"Oh, dearest, don't say that — that hurts."
"I thought we were one; I thought we entered
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 187
into each other's hopes so thoroughly," she fal-
tered behind the handkerchief.
"We do; we always shall/' he said, tiying to
take her hand.
''And this engagement — ^you know what it
might mean to me?"
''But you might get another just as good. You
"No, I should be turning my back on fortune;
it would never come again — or not for years. Do
good engagements keep knocking at one's door?
I didn't want to feel that our marriage was going
to hinder me in any, any way — I didn^tr
She suffered him to capture the hand now, and
draw her to him; to dry her tears — and bring a
smile to her pathetic lips by the assurance that he
"wouldn't say any more."
And being a decidedly clever actress, she made
a success at the Sceptre. Her name became
familiar to London playgoers, who, knowing
nothing of the apprenticeship that she and her
husband had served in the provinces, while their
hearts grew sick with hope deferred, spoke — as
playgoers do speak — of Royce Oliphant and
Blanche EUerton having "come out at the
Dominion last year." To the actor, who is so
fortunate as Oliphant only in exceptional cases,
and has often grown grey in his calling before
he obtains recognition in London, this phrase
"come out" has its humour.
The earliest days of June brought Royce his
first professional worry since his marriage. The
Impostor, which he fervently wished would sink
into oblivion, had been sent on tour again. Rayne
was now deriving a small profit from it, and there
were insignificant author's fees. One morning
when Oliphant received the Chester-le-Street
notices from the Press-cutting pgency to which
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 189
he had subscribed, he was astonished to discover
that the last act of his play had been entirely
rewritten. He could scarcely believe his eyes.
"I won't stand itl" he cried, rising excitedly;
^'the thing's monstrous; I'll have it stopped 1
Rayne has turned The Impostor into a burlesque
— ^he's holding me up to ridicule all over Eng-
"What do you mean?" asked Blanche.
"Turned it into a burlesque?"
"Look at this! He, or some other ass, has
written a new act. Clement is sent to Portland,
and escapes to France. And Maud and Mrs.
Vaughan fight a duel — fight a duel! — about him
with swords. They fight a duel — two English
ladies! — ^here it is in print I"
"Why the man must be insane I" she exclaimed.
"Maud and Mrs. Vaughan fight a duel? You
should go and see him at once."
But Rayne was not visible; and being in a
theatre every evening for three hours, he thought
himself much too busy a man to answer a letter.
Then Oliphant sought Counsel's opinion^ and
there was, of course, no doubt that he could
obtain an injunction. Theatrical advisers, how-
ever, pointed out that if he took the matter into
court, Rayne would probably declare that the
drama, as it left Mr. Oliphant's hands, had
190 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
proved so disastrous that "there wasn^t a man-
ager who would give it a date." The statement
might not be accurate, but it would be damaging.
And after all, the company was only visiting the
"smalls," where not more than two persons in
five hundred would observe who wrote the play,
or remember, if they observed. On the whole
he was recommended — for various reasons — ^to
submit to the outrage until Rayne's rights in the
So the hero continued to escape to France,
and two English ladies continued to fight a duel
about him; and those among the audience who
had the sense to laugh, continued to imagine that
the author whose name stood on the play-bill was
the ignoramus that they were entitled to laugh at.
"And at any rate," said Blanche, "if it plays
to better business with the alteration — ^and I sup-
pose Rayne reckons it will — ^you'll get bigger
fees; don't forget that!"
Royce looked at her without answering; and
though the subject burned within him, he never
mentioned it at home any more.
Four months of matrimony had been ample to
display the disparity of their points of view.
He had a pretty wife, and — as she would be
judged in "the profession" — a talented wife; but
he had no companion, and never would have one.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 191
It was his own fault, he was quite aware of it.
He had made a mistake; but that it was a mis-
take for which he would have to suffer all his
life did not lessen the weight upon his mind as he
realised it. She was fond of describing herself
as an artist, and when they disagreed upon prac-
tical matters, she insisted also that she was a
business woman; but to him she appeared a busi-
ness woman always, and an artist only when she
was behind the footlights. She was an actress,
he did not deny that — and it was a puzzle to him
how she was able to project herseK into a part —
but her taste in dramatic literature was nil. She
cared no more about the quality of a play in
which she was engaged than did the scene-
painters. For a piece to "run" was everything
that she had imagined anybody could ask of it.
"Success" to her was the last word; and miccis
d'estime was the French for failure. Money was
spent freely in the Maddox Street rooms, but he
never saw her spend a shilling on a book, and
rarely saw her read one. Their conversation
yielded nothing, was barren, dry as ashes in his
mouth. He could not talk to her as he wanted
to talk to someone, because the references, the
comparisons he made, had no significance to her,
and she found his attitude towards the theatre
wholly incomprehensible. They had at this
192 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
period only two interests in common. One was
the removal they were about to make to a small
fmnished flat in Victoria Street — she wanted a
flat, and it was a more sensible arrangement than
living in lodgings and wasting half his salary
outside ; the other was the child that was expected
to be bom to them at the end of November.
It may be thought that these meant a good
deal, but wherever their home might be, Oliphant
must live chiefly within himseK; and as to the
child — ^well, she had hurt him very much about
the child, and though he tried to forget it, the
pride of anticipation that he might have felt was
absent. She was now resigning herself to the
idea of becoming a mother; but he had known
nothing until she had suffered in secret, and made
herseK iU; and when he reproached her, she had
turned from him, crying passionately that "This
would prevent her following up her Sceptre suc-
cess, and now she would be out of a shop all
through the autumn 1"
Of her parents and sister he saw little. No
mother-in-law could have been less obtrusive than
was Mrs. EUerton. Oliphant had gathered
enough of the family's circumstances to under-
stand that they must miss their daughter's help,
and he assumed that some of Blanche's eight
pounds went to Earl's Court every week. She
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 198
did not tell him that it was so, and he did not
inquire; nor, if he had been better versed in the
prices of West End dressmakers, would any
question have been necessary.
They moved into the flat on the 4th of June.
Blanche's engagement at the Sceptre would soon
terminate, but at the Pantheon Faust was run-
ning still. Next month the house would be
temporarily sub-let, while the annual tour was
made. Whether he would be oflFered a re-engage-
ment for Greatorex's next production, Oliphant
did not know; he only hoped. It was reported
that this was to be Romeo and Juliet.
The photographs and sofa-cushions had not
been transferred to Victoria Street quite a week
when he received a note at the theatre from Otho
Fairbaim, apologising for so long a silence, and
begging him to make an appointment. They
lunched together two days later, and Fairbaim
was found paler and older-looking than when
Royce had seen him last. He wrung the actor's
hand heartily, and said how delighted he had
been to discover the name "Oliphant" in the
"I thought you might be acting in town, and
was going to read all the names 'under the clock'
on the chance. Lo, you were high in the list I
You've done well, Royce I"
194 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"Where have you been?" asked Oliphant.
"I'm a pig — IVe made fifty resolutions to
write to you; but I — IVe been in a good deal of
trouble, old fellow; you must forgive me."
"I'm sorry to hear that I May I know — ^is it
"Well, I was engaged to be married," said
Fairbaim, "and the lady changed her mind. IVe
been in New York, you know — she was an
American girl. I was very fond of her; but she
discovered that she liked somebody else better.
It leaves one rather raw, that sort of thing." He
laughed drearily. "She didn't treat me well, but
my dollars weren't so startling on the other side
— lots of the Americans have more — ^it was a pity
the governor didn't live to buy a title! . . .
Never mind about me — I want to hear about
yourself. What have you been doing?"
Oliphant hesitated. "WeU," he said, *T[— I
"No? Is that a fact? My warmest congratu-
"I married Miss Ellerton — she played in my
piece at the Dominion. We're living in Victoria
Street. You must come and dine with us; or
lunch with us — our dinner-hoiu* would be rather
barbaric to you. We don't do things in style.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 196
but we can give you an edible lunch — ^there's a
restaurant downstairs, and they feed us."
"It must be devilish jolly," said the other.
"So you married an "
"I married an actress, yes; and a very clever
"The wisest thing you could do, of course I A
wife in one's own profession must be ideal. When
"We were married at the beginning of Febru-
ary. What day will you come? — ^the sooner the
Fairbaim was free to go the next afternoon,
and Blanche put on the frock that suited her best
for his subjugation. She had learnt the details
of his oflFer to back Royce in a theatre, and she
intended that he should develop into a constant
visitor now that he had returned to England.
He found his hostess informal and charming;
and Oliphant was in high spirits, perceiving that
she had made a good impression. Conversation
did not flag, and soon became frankly profes-
sional in tone; for Fairbaim was interested in
their prospects, and put a good many ques-
tions, and, although he now believed himself a
misogynist, there was a fascination to him^ an
outsider, in hearing an actress chatter about the
stage. To Blanche it was even more novel to
196 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
entertain a young man who possessed a splendid
income; and when he inadvertently said he must
have been "staying at Brookhill" at the date soma
comedy was produced, and she discovered that
he meant the place of a peer, she dared not look
at him lest she should betray the sensation that
the announcement had caused her.
He took leave of her with the consciousness
of having spent three hours as agreeable as mis-
ogyny permitted, and his assurance that he would
drop in upon them often was no less sincere than
the lady's petition that he would do so. She
regarded Royce respectfully for being the friend
of "such a swell" ; and when they received a note
in which Fairbaim trusted that it wasn't too late
to send a wedding present, and they found that
the present was silver suitable for a prince's
dinner-party, her "lively sense of favours to
come" knew literally no bounds.
"How much money does one need to take a
theatre?" she inquired eagerly. *T)o you think
he would be just as ready to do it as he was?
Well, do you think he will be just as ready when
you want him to? — ^people's ideas change. Why
shouldn't you ask him now — ^why not make use
of him while he's here?"
"We're not well enough known," said Royce.
**We don't want to have a theatre for three
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 197
months — I want to open it, and keep it open.
Besides, it wouldn't be a fair proposal in our
"He has lots to lose," she argued; "it wouldn't
hurt him if it were a frost. Which house should
we take? Perhaps — ^perhaps he'd btUld you a
theatre! You're very stupid to take it so easy,
my boy — ^when you want him, he may have cooled
off. And he may marry — men are such mugs — I
daresay he'll go and marry and want all his
money for his wife. You may be sure there are
heaps of women trying for him — She'll fall in love
"He was engaged in New York. The girl
broke it oflF."
"Broke it oflF? The ^>Z did?"
"So he told me."
. "Good Lord I Heaven was kind to us to make
her such a fooll"
"Don't I" said Royce; "I think he's cut up
She lifted her eyebrows protestingly. "I hope
he understands we are genuine," she said, "and
won't be afraid of taking us by surprise. If he
doesn't call soon, you must fix a day — or / shall.
I want him to be very much at home in this flat,
I can tell you; he means our future I"
This was all very distasteful to Oliphant; it
198 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
jarred upon him terribly, but to say so would
entail another altercation. He held his peace,
and let the subject drop. The woman's ardour
was chilled by the coldpess of its reception. She
reflected that he was not companionable. How
diflFerent he had been before he got her! She
might have done better for herself even if Fair-
bairn did start them in a theatre! And momen-
tarily she felt that he never would — ^Royce was
so impossible! Now how nice the hour would
have been if he had been sympathetic, and could
have shared her enthusiasm, and made plans with
her for their advancement! That would have
been marriage. She could understand that in a
marriage like that a girl might be happy although
she was not rich. Royce was only enthusiastic
about matters that didn't concern him; what
affair was it of his whether a play was "litera-
ture," or whether it wasn't, if the parts were
good, and it caught on? He was a dreamer.
His ideals were very fine, she supposed; but high
ideals were a dreadful strain to live with. She
did not ridicule his theories — she knew that many
dreary subjects were deep and admirable — ^but
the proper place for them was Exeter Hall, or
the Birkbeck Institute, or somewhere; she could
not pretend to want them rammed down her
throat with her meals. If he felt aggrieved, she
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 199
couldn't help it — she had not yawned often, and
he had bored her to death. No, Royce was un-
practical — ^a crank. He was — ^he was — She
tapped her foot restlessly, and shook her head
to herself behind The Era. She had blundered
with the wrong man I
The following day, however, she had another
triumph. A fancy fair was being held at the
Botanical Gardens for the benefit of The
visitors were not quite e^rtain what it was to
benefit; but a number of more or less prominent
actresses had given their services, and a large
contingent of the gilded youth sped to Regent's
Park from Clubland, curious to see Miss this and
Miss the other off the stage. There were several
Society women too, being charitable in elaborate
toilettes, and it was possible for quite inferior
young men to acquire a chance to win a tea-cosy,
or buy a baby's comforter from a lady who had
Blanche was assisting at the Burmah Stall,
captivating in a frock which Oliphant mentally
described as "a shower of lace without a figure."
When he joined her there, he found her radiant.
"Oh," she exclaimed, "I've been talking to
Lady Fleck, and she wants to be introduced to
youl They say she knows everybody in the pro-
fession — ^the authors and critics and everyone.
200 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
She's ever so gone on you — says you're the com-
ing man, and I don't know what. There she is!
Come over now."
Lady Fleck was emerging from a group upon
the lawn, smiling vaguely. As she saw Oliphant
and Blanche approaching, her smile gained ex-
pectation. She was not pretty and she was not
young, but actors and authors and musicians
found her charming — she Uked them so much.
She gave Sunday luncheon parties, which she
called "bohemian," and which sometimes cost two
"I'm 80 delighted to meet you, Mr. Oliphant,"
she said; "I've been telUng your wife how IVe
looked forward to knowing you both. Such an
interesting couple I've always thought you — so
The last word completed his embarrassment;
it was his earliest experience of social adulation.
Blanche covered his awkwardness by the playful
assumption of a shyness that she did not feel.
"Oh, don't say that. Lady Fleck," she cried,
hiding her face affectedly; "you'll make us so
vain of each other!"
"But I must say it," declared Lady Fleck;
"such an interesting couple! Oh, your Faust, Mr.
Oliphant! it impressed me so deeply. You re-
vealed Favst to me. How you must have
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 201
thought" — she half closed her eyes to convey
thought — "how you must have lived in the char-
acter to portray it as you do!"
"I'm glad it pleased you," he murmured.
"Of course I'm an enthusiast about the Stage,
I confess it! My passion is the Theatre. When
I see a performance like yours, I want to thank
the actor — I want to go to him — to tell him what
I owe him for the intellectual and emotional treat
he has given me!"
He contrived a response with great laboiu*.
She discovered it to be "so original, so sugges-
tive." Blanche felt rather in the way, but hesi-
tated to make an excuse and vanish, not knowing
whether a lady in Society would consider it tact-
ful or rude. She was relieved when they were
interrupted. Lady Fleck pressed them to go
to see her, and repeated her "day" twice, with
In the bedroom that night Royce was entreated
to realise the responsibility that rested on him.
"You must make the most of this chance,"
insisted the girl; ''say things when we go! If
she takes us up, we shall meet no end of people.
And gaze at her as if you thought she was good-
looking — that's more important than all; she
knows already you're clever. I know what
women are — you're the draw with Lady Fleck,
SOS THE ACTOR-MANAGER
because you're a man. It wouldn't hurt" — she
raised her bare foot contemplatively and admired
it, as she always did when she undressed — "it
wouldn't hurt if you make up to her a little. Not
ridiculously, because her husband mightn't Uke
it, and then we shouldn't be asked any more; but
plain women are so easily flattered, dear boy —
Gertrude smirked in the Zoo when a monkey
looked after her — ^you needn't go far. . . . Do
baronets' wives know duchesses?"
If their marriage had sprung from love instead
of from infatuation — even if one of them had ever
truly loved the other — their lif ci would have been
very enviable. The child was bom early in De-
cember, and at the end of February Blanche was
fulfilling another engagement in town, and at the
Pantheon Oliphant had won approval as Mer-
cutio. They were young, the man had had great
luck, and they were in a profession which pays
the fortunate lavishly while making small de-
mand upon their time. It is true that every day
Oliphant studied — shutting himself in a room
and striving to attain the control over the muscles
of his face that a musician seeks over his instru-
ment; taking his voice note by note, and practis-
ing with it as a singer practises his scales — ^but
this was only in the morning, and by no means
during the entire morning. He did not work
for hours at a stretch as do authors, painters, civil
engineers, city clerks, and other men. He was
free to go out with his wife whenever she wished
204 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
him to do so ; and although she had met far fewer
titles at Lady Fleck's than she had expected,
there were, by the summer, several "Tuesdays"
and "Thursdays" on which she claimed his com-
She did not disguise that she was very am-
bitious of extending their circle of people worth
knowing; by "people worth knowing" she already
meant people in Society. Scheming to extend it,
she never missed an opportunity of being agree-
able to her own sex ; men only paid compliments,
she realised — it was to women she must look for
the magic words "I shall be so pleased if you'll
come and see me." From this cause she accepted
the former's attentions with such composure that
she was pronounced by masculine admirers to
be "a bit cold, don't you know," and gained
among women — to whom she listened with an air
of enchained interest — the reputation of being
devoted to her husband. To a "romantic couple"
in the most popular profession an invitation to
one house led to the drawing-room of another
if tact and patience were employed.
Otho Fairbaim also had his social uses, though
as a bachelor they were limited. He had not
become quite the constant visitor that Blanche
had hoped to see him; still he would drop in upon
them sometimes at odd hours now, and she had
THE ACTOR-MANAGER St05
made herself very sympathetic in a tete-a-tete
once on the subject of his misogyny. Otho had
fowid it a pleasant matter to discuss with her.
She had assiu*ed him that he was only temporarily
embittered, and prophesied that some day he
would come across a pretty girl who would com-
pletely change his views. He denied the possi-
bility. Between his heart and him the Atlantic
rolled. Nevertheless the conversation had a
charm, and he was more than ever of the opinion
that Royce had married a very nice woman.
The year for which the flat had been obtained
had expired, and Oliphant and she had just taken
one a shade more commodious, on the same side
of the street. Since the advent of the baby and
a nurse their recent quarters had been rather
inconvenient. Now that the child was here, and
could be brought to her arms in white embroidery,
and carried away if he cried obstreperously,
Blanche showed an interest in the little being —
even in moments displayed tenderness for him.
He had been christened Hugh, the name that
had been Royce's father's. Oliphant, still half-
frightened of breaking him if he picked him up,
loved to sit and look at the mite. He did not
remember looking at a baby before, and the help-
lessness of this tiny thing that was his son awoke
extraordinary emotions in him. If Blanche's
806 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
tenderness had not been capricious, if her interest
in the undesired child had been more than a
liking, there would now have been a firm link
between him and her.
Excepting during the few weeks in the pre-
vious autumn when he had toured with the Pan-
theon company, they had not been separated
since their wedding. They had, however, never
played on the same stage since then. Each had
a nightly world apart from the other. The fact
to a well-mated pair might have furnished food
for cheerful chatter across the supper-table, but
only to a pair very happily mated indeed. Gossip
about those who are strangers to the listener is
rarely amusing, and it sounds dull to the one
who gossips also. The listener generally says
the wrong thing, and the anecdote falls flat. Oli-
phant and his wife rarely touched upon the inci-
dents of the evening to each other.
While Royce remained at the Pantheon there
was no prospect of a joint engagement. Even
when he was wanted for a matinee at the Mirror,
he knew nothing about it until the women's parts
were cast. Blanche had asked him to ascertain
if there was a chance for her there, and he re-
turned with the news that all the arrangements,
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 807
"How about you?** she inquired. "Has
Greatorex given you permission?"
"Yes, that's all right. I spoke to him last
night. What are those — ^the proofs of your like-
nesses? Let me look."
She gave them to him one by one, scrutinising
them herself across his shoulder. She had a
passion for having her likeness taken, and, not
having arrived at the position where photogra-
phers wrote offering sittings for nothing, she
spent a good deal of money upon it, although, of
course, she obtained the "professional reduction."
There were here various presentments of her:
she stood triumphant, showing her bosom and her
teeth; she sat thinking high thoughts, with her
cheek upon her hand; she had her face in profile
and her hands behind her back; and her hands
full of flowers and her face bent. She laughed;
she mused; she yearned — she was beautiful in
all of them; and her husband's paramount reflec-
tion was how little they resembled her.
"Which do you think is best?" she said.
"They're all exquisite ; I don't know. Perhaps
this . • • but it's so difficult to say."
"The 'soulful' one— I think I like that best
myself. You know it ought to sell, that — I do
want an agent who would push me on; I wish
I could get hold of Bernstein 1 — ^What do I look
208 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
as if I'm thinking about?" She held the photo-
graph out, and viewed it critically. "Now sup-
pose you'd never spoken to me — suppose you
were somebody else and saw it in tiie shop-
windows — ^what would you think I was like?"
"My dear girl," said Oliphant, checking a sigh,
"I can't imagine I"
"Well, you'd be curious to know me, wouldn't
you? It would stand out among the other
women's? Wouldn't it — isn't it uncommon?
What do you say? Or do you think there's too
much shadow about it? What does it suggest —
what kind of girl? I meant to look all aspiration
and religion in this; very Bible-yl as if my eyes
were fixed on Heaven. You know what I mean.
I think I shall have a dozen of this, and a dozen
of the one in the low-neck, and ... I don't
know that any of them are really very good — I
don't look my best. The one with the hat on
is a perfect beast! . . . No, he must give me
another sitting. Don't tell 'em at home I'm
having any done — I want to save them for par-
"Where's Baby?" asked Oliphant. "Is he out
"No, it's in the nursery," she said, disposing
the mounted proofs in a line along the mantel-
piece; "do you want it in?"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 209
"I may as well go to him, if he's awake."
"It was awake just now — I heard it crying."
"WeU, I'll go and say *How d'ye do' to him
in his own domain."
The nurse said she had ^^never seen a gentle-
man take such notice of his baby as Mr. Oli-
phant." He inquired if the eyes were likely to
remain that glorious blue ; was despondent when
he heard that " 'most every baby was bom with
blue^ eyes" ; and knew restored hope when she
added that, "as Madam's eyes was blue, there was
no saying but what they might." It pleased him
to imagine that the infant looked at him with
a diflFerent expression from that awakened by
others; and because he felt embarrassed under
the nurse's surveillance, he was always glad when
she withdrew, leaving him at liberty to behave
as ridiculously as he pleased. How he wished
that "Hugh" could talk already, and that he
could take him out, holding his warm little hand,
and dazzle him with toys 1 How funny and jolly
it would be! . • . And unless he had all his own
feeling for the art, he should never be an actor.
Oh no I he should be a doctor, or go to the Bar.
And — he shouldn't take a wife until he was quite,
quite sure. Poor little Hugh — ^the nurse had
withdrawn, and he touched the baby's face with
his own. If only his father could have lived to
210 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
see Hugh! . • • He wondered if he knew about
him now. It was an awful thing, poor little
Hugh, to choose the wrong girL O Grod, grant
that the child would find nothing lacking in
Blanche! — ^how piteous if he couldn't love her,
The matinee for which Oliphant's services had
been sought was designed to introduce the first
dramatic experiment of a novelist of the intro-
spective school. For a reason that was not
Imown he awaited the verdict on his earliest play
with deep anxiety. When he had married, a year
or two before, his mother had been very indig-
nant. Some mothers do consider matrimony the
one unpardonable offence that their sons can
commit. The indignation of the novelist's
mother, however, had placed him in a peculiar
predicament; the first time after his marriage
that he drew an unlovable woman, she called on
all their friends, and said that ^'Arthur had dis-
covered his wife's real character at last!" And
when, in his next book, he drew the failings of
a totally different woman, she exclaimed that
"'poor Arthur was finding out more about his
wife every day 1" As a consequence he was terri-
fied to describe any woman who wasn't a bom
angel, and his career in fiction seemed over.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 811
He read a play as badly as most novices, and
resembled dramatists more eminent by cherishing
the delusion that few persons read one so well.
Oliphant received his part the day before the
reading was to take place, and to a cursory
perusal it looked promising: some of the speeches
a little long perhaps; here and there a line that
"didn't speak'' — awkward when one came to
utter it; but the man seemed alive, he evidently
meant something. To an admirer of the author's
novels the production of the drama was an inter-
Arthur Mundey was on the stage, and made
himself known, when Oliphant reached the
Mirror. He said he was glad that it had proved
possible to obtain Mr. Oliphant for the pro-
tagonist, and the actor was gratified. Whatever
significance the public might attach to the
mating, it was to the organisers decidedly im-
portant — ^the outcome of a movement with which
he was in cordial sympathy. The company had
not all arrived, and as he loui^^ under the
T-piece his gaze met a face that was familiar,
though he did not instantaneously remember how
he knew it. The woman, who was seated in the
prompt-entrance, had been looking towards him
at the same moment, and he saw in her eyes the
diffident expression of one who waits to be recog-
C12 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
nised. Now, her identity flashed up<m him, and
he went to her quickly. But her name escaped
him still; so extending his hand, and in a tcxie
of pleasure that was not feigned, he exclaimed :
"How d'ye do? We meet again at lastP
She rose, with a murmured greeting. "You
didn't expect to find me here, Mr. Oliphant?"
"Indeed, no; I — I didn't know who was in it
at alL Have you been back from South Africa
"I came back in January," she said. "I saw
you looking across — I wondered if you'd remem-
"Of course I do I" The name touched his
tongue. "I'm very glad to see you again. Miss
Eang. What are you playing — is it any good?"
" 'Patience Banfield,' " she said; "it's a small
character-part. You — ^you have fulfilled my
prophecy, Mr. Oliphant — ^may I congratulate
you? I was at the Pantheon last night."
Her manner was graver than it had been, he
fancied. He recalled a girl, and here she was a
woman. How long ago was it? Two years —
two years and a half. No timel But what a
change it had made in his position 1 — Pathetic, as
he stood before her, that she had not risen toa
He paused with a little embarrassment. The
questions that he would have asked were impos-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 21S
sible, but he felt that he was appearing formal,
even that the situation imparted to him, against
his will, an air of patronage. He was distinctly
relieved when Mundey sat down at the table,
and they had to listen to the play.
It disappointed him; yet how clever it was I
though half its cleverness was missed by the
assembly to whom it was read. It was a novel
in dialogue. It would have been admirable under
the library lamp, but the flare of the footlights
would kill it. It was delicate, subtle, undramatic
— it was the scenery painted by an Impressionist.
A great regret possessed him as the reading went
on, Mundey perspiring and growing hoarse. He
felt the pity of it that a fine talent should be
frustrated by an unskilful hand. He glanced
round as much of the semi-circle as was within
his view — ^the listless heads, the disposal of the
limbs, signified nothing but weariness. Yesl one
face spoke the emotion that stirred himself — one
woman understood: Miss King was thinking his
He spoke to her again as she was hastening
up the steps, after a few insincere compliments
had been made upon the work. She had bowed,
and vanished, but he had overtaken her. That
she should leave without saying "Good-after-
noon," without approaching him, revived the
214 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
mental discomfort he had experienced* Circum-
stances had once flmig them into an intimate,
if short-lived, friendship, and though in the
interval he had forgotten all about her, it hurt
him to see that she felt they no longer met upon
terms of equality. He was a leading man, and
she remained an obscure actress: so she did not
speak to him unless she was addressed 1 He could
not bear that — ^it distressed hiuL
"You're not going to run away before weVe
said ten words to each other, are you?" he asked*
"How do you like the play?"
"I " she hesitated. "I should like very
much to read it quietly by myself. Do you think
it will succeed, Mr. Oliphant?"
"I think my opinion of it's the same as your
"The same as my own?"
"Yes; I saw you while it was being read."
She looked surprised, and a httle dismayed;
"I hope Mundey didn't seel"
"You needn't be alarmed! But shall I tell
you what you thought? You thought what a
good novel it would have made."
"That's true," she acknowledged; "I did.''
They were at the comer of the street, and she
THE ACTOR-MANAGER Stl5
"Am I in the way?" inquired Oliphant. "Do
you want me to say *Good-bye'?"
"Not if we're going the same road; I go
through Drury Lane."
"So do I, if you'll let me. But it isn't about
the play I want to talk to you; I want to hear
about yourself. I thought perhaps you'd have
written to me after you went to the Cape, to tell
me how you got on. Why didn't you?"
"I didn't like to," she said. "Did it look
" 'Ungrateful'? What on earth had you to
be grateful for? No; but I should have been
pleased to hearl When did you say you came
back — in January?"
"I've been back six months. It was a very
good engagement, in a sense — it lasted much
longer than I had expected; I was out there two
years. I didn't look forward to staying anjrthing
like that time. I played in Cape Town and Kim-
berley and Johannesburg, and became quite an
"Was it pleasant?"
"I don't like the country. The Colony and
Johannesburg aren't so bad, but Kimberley is
loathsome. It's none of it very agreeable, though,
after the novelty wears oflF; and, oh, how dear!
One's salary goes nowhere I After we left Cape
216 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
Town I used to pay a shilling for The Stage —
when I bought it."
"I suppose that wasn't often?"
She laughed. "There were weeks when I
missed it, if nobody had had a copy from home
to lend me."
"And since you have been back?"
"I've been on tour with A Lilac Chain — not
much of a company, of course 1 That's what I
meant when I said it was a good engagement 'in
a sense' : the Cape doesn't lead to anything — I'm
just where I was when I went away. You've
been marvellously fortunate, Mr. Oliphant, if I
may say so."
"Oh, please don't say *if you may say'l — ^why
shouldn't you? Of course I've been fortunate.
Luck's everything. It was The Impostor that
gave me my opportimity, you know; Rayne had
an accident, and I got the chance to play lead
in town by accident. But for that I daresay I
shouldn't be any better oflF than when we last
met. I suppose you saw that The Impostor was
produced soon after you left England?"
"Yes, that was one of the weeks when I did
see a paper — I was so glad! You mustn't say
luck is everything, though. Luck gave you your
chance, but you had the talent to make use of
it. I never thought, when you told me the plot
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 817
of your drama that evening, that I should be
reading a criticism of it in Cape Town two or
three months later — it seemed so funny I That
was when I was really tempted to write to you;
but — oh, I don't know I — I hadn't done it when
I arrived; and so to write to you when you had
a success looked as if it would be rather mean.
I thought so, anyhow. Oh, there's one thing I
want to say — it isn't of engrossing interest, but
I should like you to know: I sent the woman in
Alfred Place her money I"
"She deserved never to get it," said Oliphant;
"but of course you didl Yes, I hoped for a
line from you; and Mrs. — er — Tubbs — oh, Mrs.
Tubbs mourned for youl You've no idea what
an impression you made on Mrs. Tubbs. She
used to talk about you daily."
"I know," said Miss King; "so she tells me.
I'm staying with her now."
Oliphant wheeled round incredulously.
"Really? Do you mean it? She's there still,
and you're staying with her?"
"I had to stay somewhere, and I thought of
her at once. In point of fact," she added medita-
tively, "I don't fancy Mrs. Tubbs is quite so
cheap as she was. But she's just as nice."
"How odd it seems," he said. "And is the
fumitiu*e still blue? And is she still garrulous
jei8 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
about the niece who was in the *prerf ession' ? Did
she mention me? She hadn't been to the Pan-
theon, I suppose?'*
"She hadn't been yet — no; but she mentioned
you the evening I arrived."
"I believe Mrs. Tubbs always took an interest
in me," he said warmly. "I hope she wasn't
hurt that I hadn't sent her seats? To tell you
the truth, I never thought about it."
''I don't think she was; indeed, I'm sure she
"What did she say?"
"I could tell she wasn't hurt."
"She must have said something?'^ he smiled.
"Well," replied Miss King with a glimmer of
amusement in her eyes, "she said she hadn't heard
of you since you left her and she hoped you were
Their gaze met, and laughter broke from them
both. "Thank you," exclaimed Oliphant, "I
deserved it! But this is Fame! I am Mercutio
in capital letters on the Pantheon bills, and my
old landlady doesn't know it till you come from
South Africa to tell her." It occurred to him
to wonder if Miss King had heard of his mar-
riage. "You haven't congratulated me," he said.
"Oh, I have I" she replied; "in the theatre —
the first thing."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 819
"'I mean about something else. I'm married
"Married?" she echoed. ^'Are you? ... I
don't know why it should be astonishing,
"It's perfectly true."
"Oh, I congratulate you ever so much, of
course. I knew nothing about it. I don't meet
many people — I'm like Mrs. Tubbs, you see. Is
your wife on the stage?"
"Yes, I married Miss Blanche Ellerton. We —
we've been married nearly eighteen months. I'm
a husband and father; don't I look more impor-
"I attributed it to other causes," she laughed;
"now it's explained 1"
They had reached New Oxford Street, and she
paused again, and extended her hand.
"I'm sure I've taken you miles out of your
way," she said. "By the bye, what time is the
call to-morrow, did you notice?"
"Twelve o'clock. Isn't it tea-time, and
mightn't we go and have some tea?"
"Oh no, thanks," she said, "I want to get
"Or chocolate? — I can recommend the choco-
late. We've only to cross the road."
"I'd rather not, thank you; Mrs. Tubbs would
880 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
be so wounded if I didn't want anything when
I got inl"
*' Answer me one question," he exclaimed; "do
you have tea in the drawing-room, or the dining-
"The drawing-room," said she gaily; "the blue
drawing-room. Good-afternoon, Mr. Oliphant."
"G<x)d-aftemoon, Miss King."
'He retraced his steps to the Strand, and
mentally followed hers. "The drawing-room"
— ^how vividly he saw itl — and the brown tea-pot
on the dilapidated tray hidden by a soiled table-
napkin; the battered cover over the toast. It
had been pleasant! — after all it had been pleas-
ant! He was happy then, only he didn't know
it . • • happier than now.
When the dramatic critics say that a part is
unworthy of an actor's abilities, the author may
not be gratified, but it means that the actor's
spurs are securely fixed. Excepting Oliphant,
who gained a little kudos, it is doubtful if Mun-
dey's drama advanced any one professionally.
Oliphant wondered if it would do Miss King any
good. He was glad to see that several of the
papers mentioned her favourably, though her
performance did not receive the notices that he
considered it deserved. During the fortnight's
rehearsals he had had several conversations with
her on the stage, and it would have pleased him
very much indeed if the little part of "Patience
Banfield" had proved a stepping-stone to higher
He had watched her rehearsals with a curiosity
that she did not divine — ^he was prepared to be
disappointed, to find her execution fall short of
her conceptions; but at least she had not fallen
short of his. She was artistic to the finger-tips^
222 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and her voice was delicious; he could not say
what she would do with such characters as she
aspired to play, but he was persuaded that, given
the opportunity, she would at all events get on.
Apparently no opportunity presented itself,
for when he met her in Wellington Street one
day about a month after the piece had been pro-
duced, she told him that she was ''going out" with
A Lilac Chain again.
He had not known how much he had hoped
for her until he heard it; indeed, he was more
disappointed than she; in her, expectation had
long grown faint.
''I wish," he remarked to Blanche, ''I could
have done something to help Miss King."
"Why?" she said.
"I like her, and she's clever. I'd have been
very glad to do her a service."
"I didn't think much of her at the Mirror.
What have you seen her play in besides Mundey's
"Nothing else. But she was admirable in that ;
you must remember there was no scope for big
"I thought you were in the provinces with her
once. How did you know her then?"
"I knew her in London," he answered; "we
stayed in the same lodgings for a week or two."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 228
Blanche yawned, and he was relieved that she
did not pursue the subject. It would hardly be
fair, he thought, to explain the circumstances
that had led to their being in the same lodgings.
It was a story that might be misconstrued, espe-
cially by a woman like his wife.
Yes, he was sorry he had no influence to assist
Miss King. He did like her. He wished, for her
sake, that she were settled in town; and for his
own, he wished that she and Blanche were friends.
She would have been a visitor who interested him.
It would have been an agreeable, a stimulating
afternoon, when she called — it would have taken
him out of himself for an hour; or, more pre-
cisely, he could have been himself. Then the
momentary reflection caused him to perceive how
improbable it was that Blanche and she would
attract each other; they were so unlike — ^he did
not think two women could be more dissimilar.
Everjrthing in Blanche that jarred upon him
would jar upon Miss King. . . . Yes, that was
a fact! It hadn't occurred to him before, but —
but it was true.
Greatorex was about to begin his customary
tour, and on his return to the Pantheon the
revival of Romeo and Juliet would be resiuned.
Enormously successful as this had been, though,
it could not continue much longer, and Oliphant
5224 THE ACTORMANAGER
was again constrained to wonder if his engage-
ment was drawing to a close. For Mercutio, as
for Faust, he had been engaged only for the ^'run
of the piece.*' If he were oflFered a second re-
engagement, he might reasonably expect to
obtain a second increase of terms, but as he and
Blanche were already hving quite as luxuriously
as he desired, he wasn't eager for a higher salary;
he was inclined to wish that he had had a three-
years contract for a fixed smn, so that he could
have felt calmly confident of remaining at the
house until a distant date.
Blanche did not accompany her husband cm
tour. Last simtmier she had not been well enough
to do so, and now to undertake a railway joimiey
every week with a baby and a nurse would have
been absurd. She had talked of taking them to
Eastbourne during his absence, for she could not
look forward to acting again until theatrical
London woke to activity in the autumn.
This year the company's "dates" included
Brighton. It was the last place they visited, and
they arrived after the August heat had subsided
and the season had begun. As the cab rattled
Oliphant past a hoarding on the way to his apart-
ments, he caught sight of the title A Lilac Chain
on a poster of one of the two lesser theatres; and,
fresh from the bill-sticker's brush, the advertise-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER JBJ6
ment was pleasant to him on entering the town.
So Miss King was here I He hoped he'd meet
The hope was fulfilled on the next morning
but one. He did not admit to himself that he
was pacing the front after he was tired of it, but
he was feeling dejected when they came face to
face at last.
Naturally she was not surprised; everybody at
Brighton was aware that Greatorex was at the
"Of course you know you're an enemy?" she
said, smiling. "'The Pantheon company is ruin-
ing our business here; if I weren't a traitress to
my manager, I shouldn't talk to you."
"Oh, please be a traitress," he said. "I won-
dered if I should come across you. Are you
really doing badly?"
"Well, it's not one of the things one is sup-
posed to confess, but I don't think we're turning
money away. Where do you go next week?
You're not against us again?"
"We go back to London. And you?"
"Oh, nothing so distinguished — ^weVe a dread-
ful j oumey to Plymouth. How is the baby — ^and
"They're very well," he said, "thanks. I should
like you to meet my wife one day. She's in town
226 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
now, or I'd ask you if we might call on you.
What is your part hke in this? I looked to see
if you had a Wednesday matinee — ^if you had, I
"My part is very good — it always is — in the
provinces or South Africa, where it doesn^t ad-
vance me. When I say *good,' please imderstand
that I'm speaking strictly as an actress; I don't
mean that it has anything in it: I mean that I've
situations, and plenty to say."
"You ask for too much," he answered with a
"Because I want to succeed?"
"Oh no; because you're not satisfied with situa-
tions and plenty to say."
"That's true," she said, "although you didn't
mean it. I do ask for too much — ^perhaps that's
why I get so little. It's hard, though, when you
feel yourself capable of Oh, how terrible
that sounds! I don't think I'm a vain woman,
but if I'd gone on then, I should have horrified
He shook his head. "I don't think you
would. If I were a dramatist I should want you
in my cast. I don't know what you'd be like
as Lady Macbeth "
"I know," she said; "I should be shocking."
"But I can see you in some parts. If Mundey
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 227
had been a personage in the theatre, even
Tatienee' would have proved useful to you: he
thought you excellent. It was your misfortune
that you were in a piece by a man who may never
She did not make it easy for him to turn beside
her, and after a few more seconds he took his
leave. He trusted, however, that the morrow
would be fine. And it was.
He chose the King's Road again, but it proved
a disappointment. A board proclaiming at the
entrance that the ^'band was now playing" sug-
gested that she might be met on the pier, but
here also he failed; and, discarding the shops as
improbable, since she was only in a watering-
place for a week, he sauntered next along the
^It was on the sea-wall, on a bench with a book,
that he discovered her, and now their conversa-
tion was wider, more inspiriting. This was on
Wednesday; and on Thursday he reached the
In conversation the added gravity in her
demeanour that had struck him when he saw her
on the Mirror stage, often fell from her. Her
enthusiasm for something beautiful would
brighten her face, and the man's mood. She
understood so quickly — and she was so well
1»8 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
worth understanding. Their ideas were not
always the same, but it was an unfamiliar joy
to him to find himself uttering his thoughts with-
out the sharp fear of their exciting ridicule acting
as a brake. Even when Miss King took a differ-
ent view from his, they thought so much alike
essentially, that their arguments, like the sides
of a triangle, always met at the apex, and their
point was one after alL
On Friday she was not there. But when he
tried the pier once more she was among a group
that watched the departure of the Worthing boat.
As he recognised his hking for her, it was
platonic. If he had been told that in seeking
her he was committing an indiscretion, he would
have laughed at the statement quite honestly.
It was she who reahsed that for them to spend
the morning together every day was inadvisable,
though her reason was merely that his wife might
not like it. However, now that he was here, it
would have been self-conscious to hurry away,
and he appealed to her sufliciently for her re-
straint to vanish ten minutes after they sat
He had appealed to her always, and at the
Cape she had often looked back on their acquaint-
ance. No doubt it remained fresh in her memory
chiefly because it had been attributable to an
THE ACTOR-MANAGER SS9
occurrence which no woman could ever forget;
but the man's personality had had something to
do with the fact as well. In retrospection, too.
she perceived much that she had ignored, or
taken for granted, at the time, and she told her-
self that there were few men who would have
proved so chivalrous to a girl under such condi-
tions. It was natural that these should appear
more appalling to her on every occasion that she
dwelt upon them; and the more she shuddered
at the danger that she had run, the more ex-
aggerated was the tribute that she paid to her
"What train do you go by on Sunday?" she
asked. "How glad you must be that you'll soon
"We go in the morning; I don't know by which
train. Oh yes, of course, it will be very nice to
be at home." He felt that his tone had had less
warmth than he had tried to throw into it, and
so did she; it was a surprise, and something of
a shock to her. He added quickly : "Fortimately,
my wife isn't playing now, or I should find the
evenings rather dull till we reopen."
"Isn't it wonderful to you sometimes," said
Miss King, "to reflect that you're Mercutio at
"Don't think I'm ungrateful; but it isn't, any
280 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
longer. I only wonder that I donH find it won-
"But that's pathetic," she said; "I shouldn't
like that. Do you mean to say that the pleasure
of success is so very fleeting, that you, who not
three years ago were — ^may I say it? — who not
three years ago were quite unknown in Liondon,
and spoke of pawning your watch, are hlas6
"I did pawn it," said Oliphant. "I don't like
the word hlas6; it always sounds a pose to me;
but it's true that I haven't the thrill, the ecstasy
that I always imagined I should have, presimiing
I ever got so far. You were stage struck before
you went into the profession, of course?"
"Violently; I used to tremble at the sight of a
"Well, after you had been acting for a year,
didn't you ever stand on a stage just before the
curtain went up, dismayed to find yourself so
cool? Didn't you ever think: *I am an actress;
I am standing here on a real stage, behind a real
curtain, and there's a real audience on the other
side of it who'll hear me speak my six lines in a
minute or two'? Didn't you try to work your-
self up into the state of tremor that you were
astonished that you didn't feel?"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 281
She nodded. ''Often! It's just what I did
"Well, it's just the same when one gets further.
I say, 'How rapturous it ought to beT "
"It's not a fair comparison," she said earnestly;
"that's wrong, it's wicked of you. Do you know
what that will mean if you aren't careful? — it
will mean that you'll lose your ambition. Don't
do that. You won't — because we both love the
stage, and it needs ideals — you won't be false to
that dream of yours?"
"Why," he cried, "didn't we talk of it yester-
day? You forget."
"I missed something yesterday," she said; "I
don't forget. I remember how you talked that
day outside the Museum, and you didn't spund
quite so fervid yesterday."
Oliphant sighed. He had not married Blanche
when he dreamed outside the Museum. Dulling
his aspiration now was the vague consciousness
that he was picturing a future which his wife
would depreciate were it gained.
"I am as fervid in my heart," he said, "God
knows. In my heart the stage is as dear to me,
my aims are as high, as before you and I ever
met — as high as when I was at the Varsity seeing
visions, and worshipping a stage that doesn't
282 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"I'm glad," she said, "/'m nobody; and when
your theatre exists I shall be too old to begin
to make a reputation in London, and too sad to
go there only to make a living. But all for our
stage, and not for myself, I should like to see
you, who have the talent and the chance, keep
brave enough to make your dream come true.
Remember that a man is yoimg as long as he
retains his enthusiasm; you have such time in
front of you — ^use it for all it's worth! Your
opportunities are so splendid — don't waste them.
Accomplish, Mr. Oliphant. Think what you've
done, and strain every nerve till you've done all
you meant to do."
The band had finished, and the crowd was
streaming towards the turnstiles. Miss King
rose, and he sauntered beside her to the Parade.
Here they were about to separate, for their lodg-
ings lay in opposite directions, but as they loi-
tered to a standstill Oliphant was greeted by the
actor who played the part of Friar Laurence.
The Friar told him that a telegram for him was
lying at the theatre, and having dropped the
information, continued his way, which was to the
Bodega. When Oliphant rejoined her. Alma
saw that he had turned pale.
"Is anything the matter?"
''He says there's a wire for me at the theatre;
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 2SS
it can only be from home — I'm afraid the baby
may be ill/*
"Oh," she faltered, "why imagine such a
thing?" She looked away, with a pang at her
heart — she had now learned almost as much of
his married life as he could have told her.
"The Royal is on your road, isn't it? Do you
mind driving?" He hailed an open fly at the
same moment, and she got in.
"You're very foolish to be frightened," she
said, as he took his seat; "surely there may be
a dozen reasons why your wife should wire you?
Mightn't it be business?"
"I daresay — I don't know. I suppose it's
foolish, but she has never wired me before; it was
the first thing I thought of." It was only now
that it occurred to him that it might be Blanche
who was ilL "Of course she may be ill herself,"
he muttered. "Or — or it may be nothing at
She saw that the kindest thing she could do
was to be silent; and they did not speak until
the stage-door was reached.
"Don't stop inside I" she said.
The door swung to behind him, and she sat
OUphant tore the telegram open in the pas-
sage. There was no shock, only a confirmation
its* THE ACTOR-MANAGER
of his groundless terror. The message ran:
"Baby ill ; I think you ought to come up quickly.'*
He put his hand over his eyes. "Quickly?'* But
he must play Mercutio first! And meanwhile
the child might die.
He walked back to the cab, and held the tele-
gram out. He did not look at her as she read
it — ^he was looking at nothing up the street. The
pause in which her sympathy sought for words
seemed to the woman to last a long time.
"Is it strange for a man to care so much for
a little baby?" he asked huskily.
"What can I say to you?" she murmured, in
a voice that expressed everything. "You can
be there to-night? Oh, of course — Mercutio has
finished so early 1 What train can you catch?"
"I don't know — I must find out. Don't
trouble; it's awfully good of you, but I'm
very fond of him, you see, and of course I'm
worried. I'll go and look at a time-table."
"It mayn't be so serious as your wife thinks.
She'd naturally be alarmed and fear the worst
When you get home, you may find him out of
danger." But she had noticed that the telegram
had been despatched at seven in the morning,
and she felt what this delay that he had to bear
must be to him.
"I daresay," he said; "yes — ^thanks. Where
THE ACTOR-MANAGER ft86
shall I tell the man to drive? No, why get out?
What street did you say you were in?"
She steadied her lip between her teeth for an
instant. "Dome Street," she said; "number six.
Will you — ^Mr. Oliphant, will you let me know
when you come back? Hope for the best!"
He had paid the cabman, and was turning
away when she called to him eagerly.
"(xct in," she cried, "get in and drive to the
station! Perhaps you can get home and back
before the piece begins!"
He hadn't thought of that. The suggestion,
the vague chance, quickened his nerves. The
cab rocked as they raced up the hill.
They learnt that the best train left at two, and
was due at Victoria at 3.40. He might be at
home before four; the doubt was whether he
could return in time. But they had ten minutes
to find out, and they saw that, allowing him an
hour in the flat, it was possible; there was a train
from Victoria at 5.2 which reached Brighton at
"You'll soon be with him now," she said at
the window of the compartment. "Don't worry
more than you can help!"
Her earnest face was the last thing that im-
pressed him vividly until he saw his wife's.
There was no need to frame the question. The
286 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
answer was in the air. He knew the child was
Blanche's eyes were swollen, and the hair on
her forehead was moist with eau de Cologne.
Her hands hung inertly at her sides. At the
sight of him she bm*st into tears, and he took her
in his arms. Neither had spoken yet. She spoke
"He died at ten o'clock," she said.
Oliphant released her, and crossed the floor
quite aimlessly. He stared down at the traffic
for a minute, and retraced his steps.
"What time did he — die?" he asked.
"At ten o'clock," she repeated. "We thought
it was only a cold — ^with his teeth; and then the
doctor said it was pneumonia. He was a very
good doctor. Mother was here, too — she's just
gone out; she'll be back presently. Oh, my little
angel in Heaven! I've cried myself illl"
"Where?" said Oliphant, after another silence.
"In the nursery," she replied.
The word made him wince. He went to the
room slowly, and crept forward as if the child
had slept. The curtains of the cot were drawn.
He parted them, and looked. He had left the
door open: he went back and shut it; and sat
The woman wandered about the drawing-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 887
room. Her head ached badly, and she reflected
that it was fortunate "Mother" was available "to
see to things," for she could never have done it
herself: she was too highly strung. It seemed
thankless to perceive the fact — and she wouldn't
for the world hurt Mother's feelings by hinting
it — but to be able to attend to such matters im-
plied a certain callousness. . . . Her little angel
in Heaven! She gazed at the sky from the win-
dow where Oliphant had stared at the omnibuses.
Her "precious" was with Godl The possibility
of a future state was a subject to which normally
she never gave a thought, but now an unconscious
remembrance of a Transformation Scene soothed
her pain. . • .
Royce was a long while in there! He would
be frightfully grieved of course — ^he had been so
fond of Baby. What she really needed was to
be with someone who hadn't loved the mite; she
was so miserable that she wanted brightening up 1
She required to be taken away somewhere and
made to forget; she ought to be compelled to
gather a little amusement. . . .
Jay's! . . . Crape for an infant would be too
much. In black, as she had fair hair How
horrid it was to be obliged to think of such
things! Ah, but how passionately she suffered
in her heart — ^nobody could understand! Still
838 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
people would pity her, and talk. Even the
public would speak of her loss sympathetically:
"That poor Blanche Ellerton 1" If The Era and
The Stage commented on it, no doubt a few of
the other papers would say something too. What
day was it? Friday, (Oh, the imlucky dayl
her darling had died on a Friday!) The Era
came out to-morrow — ^they wouldn't know so
soon. Unless • . . Perhaps if the news were
"expressed" to the oflBice at once ?
Ohphant replaced the curtains gently. He
fancied it must be nearly half an hour since he
entered the room; he had forgotten Blanche, and
before he left he must try to comfort her. Poor
girl, how red her eyes were 1
She rose and went to him quickly as he re-
turned, and he held her close again.
"Doesn't he look sweet?" she whispered.
He found nothing to say in answer to this.
"I shall be home on Sunday, for good, you
know," he said, since speech was essential.
She nodded. "When's your train back?"
"At five." He glanced at his watch — the time
had gone more rapidly than he had supposed.
"Your mother will stop with you, won't she?"
"Yes. . . . Have you had anything to eat?
Will you have something now?"
"I'm not hungry; no, thanks, dear.'*
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 839
**You*d better have a drink," she said, turning
to a syphon and a spirit-flask, "IVe just had
some brandy for my head. You ought to have
something or other before the showl"
He sat down in the chair that she had vacated
by the table. A letter, not folded yet, lay against
his hand, and he drummed his fingers on it while
she poured out the brandy. He pushed it to and
fro. He began to read it — mechanically, with
no interest in the letter. Its sense did not pene-
trate his stupor all at once : "I should be so grate-
ful if you could find space to mention. . . . My
little baby died this morning." What was that?
"I should be so grateful if you could find
space " O Godl The meaning rushed upon
him and turned him sick. She could devise an
advertisement from her child's death!
The soda-water spurted noisily. It was the
only sound in the room for several seconds. He
sat motionless, his gaze riveted on her hand-
writing; and Blanche, holding the glass, stood
watching him. She was chagrined to find him
reading the note — he might misconstrue it and
think her unfeeling! Was he going to reproach
He was questioning what he should say. That
she revolted him? He could tell her no less if
he spoke of it at all. He might destroy the note.
240 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
forbid its being sent. She would defend herself,
perhaps have hysterics; and he was too heart-
sick to remonstrate and discuss and upbraid. To
what end all that? She was as she was; a pdn-
f ul scene wouldn't regenerate her. But was she
He got up, and she met him with the glass
"You're going to have your drink, aren't you?"
"No," he said, "I don't want one, thank you.
I must go, or I shall miss the train. Where's
my hat? . . . Good-bye."
"Good-bye, darling," she said.
He would not, he could not, touch her face;
he dropped the sound of a kiss upon her hair.
She had put her arms round his neck, and he
thanked Heaven when he was free of them.
To act at night was a restorative; it was the
afterwards, sitting alone in his apartments, that
was terrible. And more terrible still was the
thought that he must so soon sit with her at home.
Home? The place where she had trampled on
the dead! Now that the child was gone, what
did it hold? His child, even more his hopes for
his child, had leavened the bitterness of his
blunder; but the pictures he had seen of Hugh
at three and Hugh at seven, of Hugh head boy
THE ACTOR-MANAGER «41
at Harrow, could never be looked at again.
They must be put away — ^his pictures and Baby's
all together. And she could And she was
his wifel The woman who could do this thing
was his wifel Why should such women bear
children? Well, she had known herself; she had
done her best to prevent it I
He remembered that Miss King was waiting
to hear from him — ^he would go in the morning.
She had told him her address, and begged him
to let her know. The number had escaped him,
but she was staying in Dome Street. Was it
He went at half -past ten, before she was likely
to be out. The alternative of seeking her among
the crowd on the front jarred upon him to-day,
and in the afternoon she would be playing at
The landlady ushered him without inquiry into
a small parlour. Alma was kneeling before a
theatrical hamper, completing her packing. She
lifted herself slowly, and advanced with her gaze
fixed on his face.
"He is dead," said Oliphant.
She put out her hand, and he held it tightly.
There was comfort in her touch.
"Sit down," she mimnured, moving to the
hearth. "I — I was afraid it meant that, when
248 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
no message came last night. • • • You know
what I want to ask you?"
"I was too late."
They sat opposite each other without speak-
ing. The misery in his eyes made her heart
"You*re packing early," said Oliphant at last,
with an effort.
"Yes; we've a matinee, you know, and the
lorry will be here this afternoon. We leave at
seven in the morning."
"Where do you go? — to Plymouth, isn't it?
And then? How long does the tour last?"
"I think we're booked up to the last week in
December. Don't make small talk, please. I
don't want to."
"I didn't come to depress you — ^perhaps it was
rather cowardly to come at all. I might have
sent you word."
"It was kinder to come. I don't like to ask
you questions, but if you could speak of him to
me, I should be glad."
"It's all herer he exclaimed chokily.
"Ah, I know. But it will go — the worst. The
memory won't go, but it gets tenderer. You'll
love to think of him by and by."
"It seems so motiveless, a little child like that.
He was — if you had seen him you'd understand.
THE ACTOR-MANAGEJl 445
Of course everybody thinks his own child best,
but he — had ways. Why should he be bom only
to be snatched from me again? I wanted him
so muchl . . . You believe — do you believe — ^in
"Yes, I*m so simple a woman that IVe never
questioned it. When I lost my mother, my only
comfort was that I wasn't clever and full of
doubts. Are you so clever that you're hopeless
"No; I believe," he said. "I haven't the im-
agination to conceive that Heaven's a myth."
"I suppose that each of us has a different
notion of Heaven, just as all the notions are
wrong; but I only think of it as a place where
people who've loved are given back to one an-
other and need never fear parting any more. I
don't see how mine can be very wrong. And I
think we shall look just the same to them,
although we may have grown old since we lost
them, as we did the day they died. I think I
shall still look a girl to my mother if I live to be
eighty." She gave a half smile. "If I am good
enough to go to Heaven 1"
"And they too us?" he asked. "Should I find
a baby in fifty years?"
"Yes, I think you would find a little baby in
fifty years. Just the little baby you had kissed.
244 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and remembered. But you should be able to give
ideas to me — ^you were going to be a clergy-
"You," said Oliphant, "are a good woman;
a good woman can teach us alL" He had not
mentioned his wife's name, and the reservation
by which he imagined that half his sorrow had
been concealed was doubling Alma's compassion
He was loath to take his leave, and even when
he had risen, they lingered by the window.
"I'm glad I came," he said at last; "you've
been very kind to me. I wish we hadn't matinees,
or that you didn't start so early to-morrow. Now
I'll let you finish your packing." He looked
round the humble room bright with the morning
sunshine. "Are those books yours? Are they
to go in too?" He went to the chair where they
lay, and brought them to her, and stood beside
her while she put them in the hamper. "Good-
bye, Miss King."
"Good-bye," she said. "And think of yoiur
art and your hopes, and make us all proud of
"I wonder when I shall meet you again? You
and I are always being good friends for a little
while, and then losing sight of each other, aren't
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 246
The firmness of her hand-clasp seemed to lend
him strength, as it had given him comfort when
he entered. Yes, his art remained!
Alma went back to the window, and watched
him till he turned the comer of the street.
He did not return to town until the morning
of the funeral. In the afternoon the cot and the
toys, all the belongings of the dead baby, were
removed from the nursery. The room was now
Oliphant's; it was here that he studied and he
There had been no open rupture, for Blanche
had refrained from asking his reason; she knew
it, and affected to attribute the expression of his
wish to morbid grief. She considered that he
was suffering from a temporary derangement of
the intellect, and the time to show her resentment
would be when he came to his senses.
But to a man of Oliphant's temperament no
other course was possible if they were to remain
under one roof. When he reflected that within
six hours of their child's death she could do what
she had done, she appeared to him a monstrosity.
Every nerve in him shrank from the suggestion
of contact with her. He felt that to take this
abnormal creature in his arms as a wife would
THE ACTOR-MANAGER «47
be a horrible action — an oflFence after which he
would be degraded, and repulsive to himself.
Holding his cause the slightest, and yet afraid
of discussing it, Blanche's disguise was at first
painfully thin, her amiability was an obvious
bravado. But as the weeks went by, the influence
of custom softened the asperities of the anoma-
lous relationship. Both were in engagements:
Oliphant still at the Pantheon — where Borneo
and Juliet had been succeeded by a revival of
Much Ado About Nothing — and the woman de-
riving consolation from a hit at the Fall MalL
With months they acquired a manner nearly as
free as that which had subsisted between them
before the baby died. Oliphant could sit in a
room with her without shuddering; and if a pro-
longed tete-a-tete distressed him still, this had
its compensation to her in the fact that it made
him readier to accept the invitations of "people
worth knowing" — a circle which, thanks to her
assiduity and his professional successes, was
gradually widening to the "romantic couple."
By the time the season had well advanced, the
circle had supplied a counter-irritant to her
original complaint. People, otherwise well-bred,
question artists about their prospects and their
incomes with an effrontery that they would never
dream of displaying towards those in business,
248 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
and gushing matrons sometimes asked her when
she and her clever, delightful husband were going
to have a theatre of their own. This unconscious
impertinence galled her, because if Royce had
not been a noodle — ^that was how she mentally
expressed it — they might have had their own
theatre already. She craved for her own theatre
and the attendant importance. When she men-
tioned the subject to him he was as unsatisfactory
as ever, and there were moments of solitude in
which she raged, and demanded of the irrespon-
sive walls what marriage with such a visionary
had given to her.
She determined to put Otho Fairbaim*s
friendship to the test herself; and one afternoon,
when she was at home alone, he was announced.
She prayed that no one else would calL
"Royce is out," she murmured; "but I daresay
he'll be back soon. Put your hat down."
"You look tired," he said with concern.
She shrugged her shoulders and laughed con-
strainedly: "Oh nol What's the news?"
"With me? Do I ever have news? I came
to hear news — to be entertained. Behold the
selfishness of man and the abuse of hospitality 1"
"I don't think you ever find us very entertain-
ing, do you?" she said. "I was beginning to think
you found us so dull that you weren't coming
THE ACTOR-MANAGER itHd
any more. How long is it since youVe been here
— three months?"
"Mrs. Roycel" He had begged leave to eaU
her "Mrs. Royce," saying "the other somided
so awfully formal"; and when she had hsped
**Otho formall" permission was accorded.
"Three months, isn't it?" she said; "or is it
fom*? We were asking each other what we had
"Mrs. Roycel It's not two! And I've been
away. You aren't offended with me really, are
Until now it had not occurred to her that she
might be offended; she had only been impatient
for his visit; but it was amusing to watch his
pink-and-white dismay. She nodded slowly.
"Oh, I say, I'm immensely sorry," he ex-
claimed, "if you mean it I And is Royce, too?"
"I can't answer for Royce. I'm offended, if
"Oh, please don't be unkind; I've been away,
on my honour ! I left town the first week in May
— broke all my engagements and went into the
country. Impulse. But in future I am always
going to spend the season in the country. That
London should be fashionable during the months
when the country looks its loveliest is a monu-
mental instance of human perversity. I was at
Ji8(> ITHE ACTOR-MANAGEtt
Studland — I don't suppose you know it? I can't
tell you how peaceful, how divine it was I"
"Has she accepted you?" asked the lady.
"Oh, now you're chaffing — ^that means I'm for-
given. Thank you, Mrs. Royce."
"I'm quite serious. You don't expect me to
believe that you left town in May for — ^where
was it? — somewhere peaceful and divine, unless
there was an attraction?"
"There was an attraction," said Otho; "there
was Natm^el Natm^e and Art. I was down
there with a man who was making studies for a
pictm^e. You observe I'm technical: 'making
studies'! He used to paint, and I used to read
poetry. I got up at eight every morning, and
lived in the sunshine. When I think of all the
springs I've wasted in Piccadilly I feel I've been
a most awful ass, really I do."
"And you didn't read the poetry to a girl?"
"I never spoke to a girl the whole time I was
there. One doesn't keep talking about some
things, Mrs. Royce, but there are wounds that
don't heal." He looked at her plaintively. "Did
you think I was so shallow that I could forget
so soon? You were very nice to me once when I
stayed and bored you an unconscionable time. I
thought you understood that I shouldn't for-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 5861
"But you must forget/' she replied. "I re-
member what I said better than you do. I said
you'd meet somebody before long who would
make you ashamed of yourself for having railed
against us poor women. AU women were heart-
less because one girl had treated you badly. Oh,
"I know," he said. "Yes, I was very absiu*d —
all that's past. You were the ^somebody' who
made me ashamed of that. But I shaU never
love again. I could never feel more than friend-
ship for any woman now."
"You are very faithful!" she said, regarding
him with a display of eager interest. "I thought
it was only my sex who could be so faithful as
'Tour sex?" he exclaimed. "Why "
"Ahl" she said, lifting an admonitory finger.
''You are always the exception, Mrs. Roycel"
"The ^present company,'" said she. "Of
"No, but I mean it honestly. I've never seen
any woman so — so sympathetic, and so devoted
to her husband as you are. I congratulated
Royce verbally before I met you — as in duty
bound; but since I've known you, I've congratu-
lated him a hundred times in my own mind. And
262 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
how he has forged ahead since his marriage 1
YouVe been a Mascotte to him.**
"Don't you think you have? Why are you
"Oh, of course he has got on," she said; "but
I wish my mascotry — what is the word? — could
take him furtherl I want to see Royce in a
position to choose his parts and to show peopk
what he can really do."
"He ought to have a theatre," said Fairbaim.
Her hands rose, and fell to her lap, in a little
impatient gesture: "Let's talk of something else,
Mr. Fairbaim, please — I didn't mean to mention
this! I know you once oflFered to start him in a
theatre, so it's the one subject I can't speak to
"But why?" he asked. ^'Why can't you?"
"Isn't it natural? You might think I
Besides, Royce would be very angry if he knew
that I'd let you guess we were troubled."
"Do you mean that you are in trouble because
he can't take a theatre — that you are both worry-
ing about it?"
"Don't make me say any more," she begged.
"I'd rather notl"
"But" his eyes were big and grieved. "Is
this fair to me? You know I'd like to serve
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 5868
Royce. And I thought you and I were friends?
You must trust me. Between ourselves 1 Do
you really mean you're both worried because he
can't take a theatre?"
**Well, I'll say that I am. If you spoke to
Royce, he would teU you that it is too soon —
according to Royce it will always be too soon!
Royce lacks confidence. This is one of the cases
where a woman sees further than a man. Royce
is wasting his time at the Pantheon now. He
can never do any better there than he has done.
What has he to look forward to? That Greatorex
will ask him to play Ms parts ? Or put on Othello
to give Mr. Royce Oliphant the opportunity to
make the success of the evening as lago? Short
of management he has gone as far as he can
get. Weill one day he will go into management.
Some capitalist will come along and offer to
back him — ^there is no risk about it; it will be
a very good investment — ^but he won't be so
young then; some of his best years will have
been lost; the time between to-day and the day
when the capitalist appears wiU have been
wasted. I see it more clearly than the poor boy
himself, though, if he told the truth, he sees it
partially too. As his wife, how can I help being
**But, my dear Mrs. Royce," cried Otho, "why
5864 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
haven't you said this to me before? You knew
of my oflFer to him ^why didn't you hint to
me that it might be repeated ? I've never thought
about it; he seemed to me to be doing splendidty
— ^what do I know of stage matters? I feel
awfully guilty, really! Of course, he ought to
have a theatre! Now you've put it to me, I
understand. I'll have a talk to him this after-
"No, no!" she said, aflame with joy; "it
mustn't look as if it came from me — he'd never
forgive me. Speak to him when you're here
again; and be firm! Tell him he's a fool, and
insist on having your way — I should fancy you
generally get your way when your mind is made
up, don't you? Say oh, say whatever you
like, but don't let him suspect that we've been
exchanging confidences, or his pride will be up
in arms in a moment!"
Otho promised to exercise the utmost diplo-
macy; the confederate was to say littl^ and he
was to address his arguments as much to her as
to Oliphant. It was arranged that he should
drop in a few days later without warning. The
subtlety of the well-meant scheme to deceive his
friend pleased him vastly, and it was not a whit
less gratifying as he took his leave to remember
that "Mrs. Royce" would be benefited as well
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 5865
Blanche thought he was the most charming
yomig man she had ever met. She had not
nursed many misgivings, but the alacrity of his
response warmed her heart towards him; she
regretted that she had been compelled to be a
The plan was duly executed; but, to her sur-
prise and joy, Oliphant demurred very faintly.
He proved quite willing to be persuaded that it
was not premature for him to adventure manage-
ment. He had been loath to take the first step,
averse from asking the favour, but now that
Fairbaim again came forward without solicita-
tion, every pulse in him leapt with gladness.
"You would be backing your opinion of us
very heavily, Otho," he said; "don't forget that
if it proved a mistake, it would be an expensive
one I If you're prepared to risk it. Heaven
knows / can't say 'Don't' ! But think the matter
well over first; we'll talk of it again."
"I've nothing to think about," persisted Fair-
baim; "it's for you to say *yes' or *no.* If I'm
any judge of acting, I shan't lose — on the con-
trary, it will be a rattling good thing for me."
He turned to Blanche. "You see the commer-
cial instinct can't be silenced, Mrs. Royce; it's
She laughed. "A theatre is a business to
256 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
everyone. Well, it's nothing to do with
Royce must decide."
"You know the only lines on which I'd run
a theatre," said Oliphant, speaking thickly; '1
want to produce the best available work. There
will be no concessions to catch the crowd. There
is no fortune, no large income, to be made from
a theatre that I controL"
"It's going to be *art for art's sake,' " returned
Otho; "I quite understand. I haven't a con-
suming desire to drop a heap of money, but I
can't pretend that I'm only actuated by the hope
of making a pot, either. If it does put anything
in my pocket, I shan't be angry i^nth you; if it
only pays expenses there'll be satisfacticm enou^
in feeling that I've a share in an artistic under-
taking. Which theatre do you think you might
"I haven't a notion. We shan't get a house
directly we want one, you know — I can't walk
into management next month. And first there
are the plays to be considered — ^there are a great
many things to be considered! I warn you
you'll be badgered to death before the curtain
"Not I! I shall come to the first ni^^t, or
the dress-rehearsal, when the bother is all over.
The work is for you, my friend I"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 867
"Well," cried Oliphant, "we shaU have to go
into figures, and you shall tell me what your idea
is/' His excitement broke into action, and he
clapped Fairbaim on the shoulder wildly. "You
shall be proud of your stage, Othol I don't
swear for the actor-manager, but you shall be
proud of the work, I promise you 1 What do you
say, Blanche? We'll do him justice, won't we?"
She assented gaily, but he had not waited for
her assent. Momentarily he had forgotten that
their views were opposed, and his delight was
boundless. It was only after an appointment
had been made for the morrow, and Fairbaim
had gone, that the first stir of remembrance
tinged elation with regret, and he perceived anew
that to his own ears the triumphal march must
always have a discord.
Blanche and he paced the room. Both were
shaken by the prospect, but to each the prospect
was different. The wife saw the obvious — showy
parts, pubUc adulation and professional defer-
ence, and a hfe-size portrait of herself in the
foyer. How she wished that one or two women
that she hated would apply for engagements!
The man, to whom dramatic art was a religion,
saw a theatre that should be the expression of
his life. He saw on how marvellous a basis this
ideal theatre would be reared — due to a friend
258 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
who did not regard it as a means of mon^-
making. As he realised the magnitude of his
opportunity, Oliphant trembled, and wrung his
hands in a prayer that he might be worthy of the
power vested in him.
She brought him back to the practical with a
''What shall we put our salaries down at?''
"I haven't thought about it," he said. ''How
much do you suggest?"
"A hundred," she said promptly.
"A hundred?" he echoed. "How a hundred?"
"I'm getting twenty."
"But I'm very far from getting eighty I How
a hundred? In common gratitude we must put
down our salaries at less than they would be
anywhere else — ^not more! Remember that the
capital is entirely Otho's; we risk nothing."
" 'Less'?" she exclaimed; "when we do all the
"My dear Blanche, we share the profits.'*
"Yes, I know. Well, if we charge the same
it's fair enough — I don't see why we should
charge 'less.' If it weren't for us, there wouldn't
he any profits."
"And if it weren't for Otho's generosity, we
shouldn't have a theatre. He is doing a very
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 269
wonderful thing — let's show that we appreciate
it! There's not one man in a million who would
start another in a theatre from pure good feeling.
He gives us perfect liberty — ^he says: *You want
a theatre; take one, and play whatever you like.
If there's a loss I'll meet it.' It's an unpre-
cedented oflFer. It isn't even as if he felt as —
as we do. Otho is a fellow who likes literature
and art everywhere excepting on the stage. If it
weren't for us — and he ran a theatre at all — ^he'd
do it for a lark and put up musical comedy. We
can't treat him as if he were a speculator."
"What did you mean," she said, "by telling
him there couldn't be any fortune, any large
income? Why not? They say WiUde made fifty
thousand pounds out of Only Once More alone!"
''Only Once More was a farce," said Oliphant;
"we don't propose to play farce, do we? You
wouldn't like that yourself?"
"No, but plenty of dramas make money. Look
what the Hendons made at the Mirror! That
was drama. Look what Shedlock is doing at the
Queen's with this last ghastly thing — I hear the
people are eating it."
"I think you know," he said, "I'd rather be
in engagements all my life than have a theatre
and run it on Mr. Shedlock's lines. I'll produce
860 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
the best work, or none. And believe me,
Blanche, you can get all you want by aiming
at the highest — ^you will be much more prominent
than if you content yoiurself with the second-
"But I shan't get all I want if we're going to
be poor all our lives,** she answered. "I do
hope, Royce, you aren't going to fritter this
chance away on fads?*'
" Toor,* '* he repeated; "do you think we're
poor? What more can you want? You've heaps
of frocks; we've a pretty flat; you need never
look twice at a five-pound note "
"But all this," she interrupted impatiently,
"will be poverty when we're in management
We aren't going to live here, and have two people
to lunch once a month, when we've our theatre.
We shall have to give garden parties, and enter-
tain on a big scale."
He looked at her, surprised.
"Why?" he said. "And how? What with?"
"Yes, Vhat with?'— that's just it! If we don't
make money, we can't do it. Our salaries, espe-
cially if you're going to cut them down, won't
be enough. One minute you say we share the
profits, and the next you say there won't be
"I don't think I said that — I certaitily trust
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 5861
there will be. AU I said was that they wouldn't
be great, at all events at the beginning. I'm
not so eccentric that I'd rather avoid a profit
than make one."
"That's some comfort I" she returned. "Of
course one wants to do good pieces! You don't
suppose that I'm so eccentric that I'd prefer
them bad, do you? Only no Brand, Royce — if
you're going to open the campaign with Brand
because you want to play the part, we shall be
"Have you read it?" he inquired.
"No, dear," she said, "but I tried to."
Oliphant converted a sigh into a laugh.
"Well," he replied, "I wasn't thinking of
Brand. I'd like to work with you hand in hand,
Blanche. Let's correct each other's mistakes —
we both make them, no doubt. If you tend to
one extreme, I suppose, I tend to the other. If
we meet half-way "
"It will be a sensible compromise!" she de-
His heart sank at the word; he had felt it com-
ing when he paused, and the clang of it knelled
in his soul. Was he talking of "compromise" in
the first hour? No, he would not juggle with
his conscience; he would be true to his faith!
Though conquest abroad would be rendered ten
S6t THE ACnmrMASAGEE.
fames iiardcr bjr opposifaan in H
stick to his coloars to the lul. HckMl
for tUs apportnmtj', drained of it, Ubonred aid
fired for iL God had sent it to hi^; and bf
God's help he would jadifr the boon!
It was at last decided that the joint salary of
the actor-manager and his wife should be fifty
pounds. Otho was to be responsible for the rent,
the cost of production, and all expenses ""behind"
and "in front/' and he volunteered to spend
seventy pounds a week in newspaper advertise-
ments, though Oliphant had estimated them at
less than sixty. With the work he was to have
no concern. Profits were to be equally divided;
and Oliphant, while stipulating that there should
be no fees for cloak-rooms or programmes, un-
dertook that the business-manager should ar-
range for advertisements on the programmes,
the commission on the hire of opera-glasses, and
the sub-letting of the bars to the best advantage.
These were all details of which Otho knew noth-
ing, and of which Oliphant knew much less than
he supposed. They pertained to the seamy side
of a theatrical enterprise, and could not be
ignored, however; indeed, the further the project
progressed, the more complicated did the seamy
264 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
But before it appeared to progress at all, Oli-
phant was dismayed to see how time passed —
how the weeks and months went by mitil the
first night, never any nearer, seemed as elusive
as a will-o'-the-wisp. The earliest idea had been
to obtain a lease of the Embankment Theatre,
but Otho, buoyant with champagne one night,
had soared superior to the scheme just when the
negotiations were assuming definite shape, and
had declared that he wanted to take a bigger
house and ''run the whole thing on first-class
lines." Oliphant, who was hankering to have a
poetic play of Sylvain Lacour's done into Eng-
lish — a production demanding elaborate mise-en-
scene — ^was only too ready to be convinced that
the bolder course was the wiser; and the solicitor
to the Embankment coming to terms tardily,
found that he had come to terms too late.
A bigger house was not immediately available;
nor could Sylvain Lacour be brought to believe
all at once that any translation could do justice
to his genius. A visit to Paris, with the offer of
an increased percentage of the receipts, per-
suaded him that he had imderrated the resources
of the English language; but the English poet
on whom Oliphant had set his heart was tem-
porarily incapacitated by gout, and there were,
moreover, all kinds of anxieties and disappoint-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 266
ments relative to the modem drama by which
God and the State was to be followed.
This God and the State appeared to be an
admirable selection for the opening venture.
Though Lacour might not be a great dramatic
poet, he came as near to being one as did any
writer living. The action of the play was laid
on an imaginary island, and the period was de-
scribed simply as "The Past," but the interest
was for all lands and for all times. The central
situation, too, was magnificent, and though it was
a finer acting-scene for Blanche than for himself,
Oliphant would have felt it a privilege merely to
produce such a work. That its beauty should
pass unnoticed looked to him impossible.
Blanche, who was unable to read French, had
heard enough to understand that she had a very
emotional part, and she therefore forgave its
being in verse. Her principal objection was that
her costume must be simple and poor. Oliphant
had his Court apart from her, his scenes of splen-
dour; but the heroine, like the daughter of
Triboulet, lived in a world contained by four
walls, and only reached the gates of the palace,
in the last act, to die.
Meanwhile, she had other meditations. When
they opened the theatre, they must have a larger
drawing-room; she had determined that. A
SM THE ACTOR-MANAGER
garden possibly she might have to waive, but a
larger drawing-room was essential It was not
necessary to discuss the matter with Royce, but
she utilised her morning strolls to interrogate
various house-agents in the neighbourhood. On
one occasion she met Otho in Victoria Street,
and, as they proceeded towards the flat together,
she told him where she had been.
"I'm not talking to Royce about it," she ex-
plained; "he has enough to think of; but it would
be idiotic for us to remain where we are when
we go into management. The more people we
have home, and the more we visit, the better for
all of us it will be. Did you know that?"
"It never occurred to me, Mrs. Royce; of
course you're quite right, though."
"I'm so glad you agree with me," she said.
"I always do, I think."
"I think you do — ^it's very sweet of you! On
the first night we must have a reception on the
stage. I want you to bring everybody you can.
Women as welll Women can be so useful
When — oh when, Mr. Fairbaim — shall we know
for sure? Oh, the suspense of it all! It's simply
"Royce expects to settle for the Mayf air, you
know, now," he said. "I do wish we could have
got ahead more quickly for your sake."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 867
"Oh I" she turned to him with swift depreca-
tion; "please don't think me such a horrid un-
grateful wretch as to grumble to you. Even
if we had got the theatre, we couldn't open
yet. Nobody can help it; and you — ^well, if I
grumbled to you, I should deserve a shaking."
Her eyes laughed in his for an instant. "I think
I should ask you to give it to me I"
The young man met her gaze with a touch of
embarrassment that he did not care to define.
"Well, I believe we shall have a huge triumph
when the piece is produced," he declared. "Don't
you? Of course I've no experience, and I oclj
judge as an outsider, but when I read it, I was
"How cruel of you to remind me of my appall-
ing ignorance! I'm simply dying to read it, and
"Oh," he said, "I forgot. Tell mel ShaU I
make you a rough translation? Would you like
"Oh, no," she exclaimed; "how can you pro-
pose such a thing? Why, it would be most
"It wouldn't be any trouble at all, done for
you. I'll start it to-night."
"Do you mean it? Really? But to-night?
Aren't you going anywhere?"
268 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"I wasn't going anywhere particular. It will
be an immense pleasure to me, I assure yoiL
Don't expect it for a few days; you know, being
verse, it will take a little time, although I shall
only aim at conveying the sense. I'll send it to
you directly it's finished."
"'You might spare half an hour more and bring
it, mightn't you?" she suggested.
"So I might," he said. "Then directly it's
finished, I'll bring it to you."
"And read it!" added Blanche gaily. "Oh,
you must certainly read it. The adapter always
reads the play r
His cheeks grew pinker. "My dear Mrs.
Royce, I've a fair amount of self-esteem — not to
call it Vanity' — ^but I shouldn't Have the pluck
to read it aloud to you to save my Ufe."
She hung her head in mock abashment.
"I shouldn't," he insisted; "honour bright f
"Am I such a terrible person?" she inquired
"No, but you're an actress, and you'd make
game of me — not openly of course, but "
The reproach in her face shamed him.
"You can't mean that," she said; "you know
better! Here we are 1 Come in and see RoyoeF'
Oliphant was in an arm-chair before the fire,
with The Stage in his hands. Blanche asked him
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 269
what he was doing with it, for it had been issued
some d^s. She unpinned her hat, and Otho
took her coat from her; he was conscious of a
pleased interest as he watched her settling her
hair before the glass.
"I was looking down the ^Professional
Cards/ " replied Oliphant; "I want to find out
where Miss King is, if I can. I'd like to offer
her an engagement when the time comes."
"Miss King?" said Blanche. "Oh, yes, I know!
But why — ^why this philanthropy?"
"Who is Miss King?" asked Otho. He found
that he was still stroking Blanche's muff, and
he put it aside. "I think I'll have one of your
"There they are, old man, behind you. Miss
King is a very clever woman. ^Philanthropy'?
There's no philanthropy about it. Where does
^philanthropy' come in?"
"It's a blessed word, anyhow," murmured
Otho, inhaling — "like 'Mesopotamia.' "
"And just as irrelevant," said Oliphant. "I
want to offer her an engagement in the piece be-
cause I don't think we could get anybody better."
Blanche laughed shortly.
"When did everyone else die?" she inquired.
"How very absurd, Royce — 'couldn't get any-
body better'! She's a provincial actress^ Mr.
no THE ACTOR-MANAGER
Fairbaim, who fascinated my impressionable
husband by the genius with which she did noth-
ing at some mating. Engage her, my dear boy,
by aU means, I'm sure I don't mind; but say it's
because you like her, not because you couldn't
get anybody better. I thought we were to have
a West End company — ^in which case we could
get a good many people better,"
"'Then I am going to engage her because I like
her," answerd Oliphant. ""But for Otho's satis-
faction, perhaps you'U permit me to repeat that
she has talent; I shouldn't suggest casting her
for *Astolaine' if I weren't sure of it,"
Otho puffed his cigarette a shade uncomfort-
"I daresay she'll be very good," he observed,
eager to say the right thing, and failing signally.
" ^Astolaine' would appeal to any woman, I
should say I"
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Blanche.
"Is *Astolaine' an important part, Royce?"
" *Astolaine' is your sister. It's not a long
part — it's the most important woman's part after
yours, of course; in fact, it's the only important
woman's part besides yours."
She looked from one man to the other incredu-
"And you're going to give it to a woman who
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 271
isn't known/' she demanded; "'to a woman who
has never spoken twenty lines in town? What
for? I don't think Mr. Fairbaim is so anxious
to save five powids a week on the salary list; are
you, Mr. Fairbaim?"
"My dear Mrs. Royce," he stammered, "you
can engage whom you like — anybody you both
decide on — you know the arrangements have
nothing to do with me at all."
"We shan't save anything on the salary list,"
said Oliphant. "Look here, Otho, this woman is
an artist; she'U play 'Astolaine' infinitely better
than many women who have big reputations.
The part is worth about ten pounds a week, and
I propose to pay her ten pounds — always pre-
suming that she rehearses it satisfactorily. Do
"Z don't object," said Otho; "certainly not,
old dhap. I don't object to anything."
"Then if I can learn where she is, I'll write to
her — or she may be in South Africa, or Australia,
when she's wanted."
"But there is no philanthropy about it?" cried
Blanche with affected amusement. "You are
going to offer her the best chance she has ever
had, and the best salary, and there is no philan-
thropy about it? Why, you couldn't do any
more for the woman if you were in her debt I"
878 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"I am in her debt,** said Oliphant; "I owe her
the only comfort I received in the greatest grief
of my life.**
He had tmned pale; and Blanche also changed
colom*, though she could only conjecture his
meaning. Fairbaim wished he hadn't come in.
It seemed to him that Royce had created a serious
discussion out of a playful remonstrance. Doubt-
less every married couple had dcnnestic differ-
ences; but the illusion had existed that Oliphant
and his wife were the one exception.
When he went, it was with a Uttle dismay, and
the matter recurred to him during the evening
while he was at work on the translation. The
translation was far from being a task to be
knocked off lightly by a man of taste. He put
down his pen more than once, and questioned
if, with the ignorance of a bachelor, he was ex-
aggerating the suggestiveness of the incident that
he had witnessed. He decided that he was, for
Mrs. Royce was too charming for any man to
be unhappy with herl
Oliphant had not continued his study of The
Stage after his friend's departure, nor had
Blanche revived the subject of the debate. A
diversion had been effected by the entrance of
Mr. and Mrs. EUerton.
The novelist had evidently come with a pur-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 278
pose; and though Oliphant had always under-
stood that he had persistently refused invitations
to write for the theatre, it transpired that in the
course of the last ten years he had written several
very literary dramas without any invitation at
"It occurred to me," he said, "that your
theatre will be conducted on my lines. Now I
have the play for you. And I have brought
"I should like to read it," answered Oliphant;
"thanks. Of course you know our opening pro-
duction is settled? We shall probably get the
Mayf air from next September, and we open with
Lacour's God and the State — ^we shall keep to
the title: God and the Stated
"I heard something about it the last time
Blanche came; I didn't know you had actually
settled. Not till next September? Well, you
might do this second."
"The next piece is fixed too. Still, if — if it*s
suitable, we might do it third or fourth."
"It's a lovely play, Royce," said Mrs. EUerton
fervently; "I'm sm-e you'll like it. Blanche
knows it — don't you, dear? — The Alienist/'
"Oh yes," said Blanche, "is that it? Yes, I
remember it." Her tone was not enthusiastic,
and her mother repeated nervously:
274 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"If you read it, Royce, I'm quite sure you'll
like it. The hero's and heroine's parts are both
beautiful They are really I"
"The hero and heroine's," said the novelist
"How often have I told you that, I wonder I"
"Yes, dear," she murmured, "I'm so stupid; I
must take care I They're both splendid, Royce!
And the scene in the study, where he discovers
the signs of insanity in his own wife, and you
hear the dance-music of the children's quadrille
in the next room, and the moonlight is streaming
through the windows, is grand."
"It sounds so," observed Mr. EUertcm, "as
you describe it; 'the moonlight streaming
through the windows' has a truly literary ring I
Your mother-in-law, Royce, is an estimable
woman ; and the Editor of Winsome Words, who
will be one-and-twenty next birthday, has the
highest opinion of her talent. His communica-
tion this week is really most flattering. But if
she told you the story of a work of Tolstoy^s, you
might think you were listening to a synopsis of
a penny novelette. It's very remarkable. She
'sees through the medium of a temperament' —
to quote Emile — and her temperament is of the
This was one of the speeches — delivered with
deliberation, and with all the points carefully
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 276
emphasised — ^which invariably filled Oliphant
with a desire to kick the smiling and sarcastic
gentleman; and ostentatiously ignoring him now,
he addressed himself to the poor woman who
was endeavoming to wear an easy smile.
"What was the flattering letter. Mother?" he
"Oh, nothing," she said. "Only a few lines
with the cheque, and a request for two more
stories. When are you coming to see us again?"
"If you knew how busy I am!" he exclaimed
apologetically. "How is Gertrude?"
"Yes, how is Gertrude?" said Blanche; "we
must really try to run out one afternoon this
week I I haven't seen her for an age. And you
know, Royce, weVe been awfully rude to Mrs.
Le Mesurier — weVe never caUed there since that
luncheon party. And there's Lady Liddington
— ^we're neglecting everyone. What Lady Fleck
will think of us I don't know. Do tell Gertie
how busy we are. Mother 1 Why doesn't she
come and see us? Although, as we're out so
much, she'd better not come without hearing
from me first!"
"You are becoming more fashionable every
day, I perceive," drawled Mr. EUerton. "The
ffeted favourites of Fortime."
"Don't!" she sighed languidly. "The bore it
276 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
is — if one could only be quiet I I long for a six-
months holiday in a place where there are no
visitors and no invitation cards. Shall I ever get
it? • • . You're going to stay, aren't you?"
She liked them to stay to dinner when they
came. In this building, too, there was a restau-
rant downstairs, and it gratified her to cavil in
their presence at a cuisine which she knew they
must be finding epicurean. As a rule she and
Oliphant dined lightly, but when her family re-
mained, she ordered four or five courses, and
was chagrined if his refusal of chartreuse be-
trayed that they did not have liqueurs every
Oliphant repeated his assiu'ance that he would
read The Alienist — ^which might be a good play
handicapped by a bad title — and the author
obviously considered that perusal implied accept-
ance, for his manner became quite genial before
the hour arrived for the husband and wife to
betake themselves to their respective stages.
When the promise was fulfiUed, however, Royce
found that the drama possessed aU the faults of
Mr. Mundey's; and he was for the first time pro-
foundly thankful that he hadn't married a de-
Alma, whom he had not seen since they parted
at Brighton, was discovered to be on tour with
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 877
the Hamiltons, and having ascertained her
whereabouts, he said to Blanche:
"By the way, I see Miss King is at Rochdale
this week. We grew rather heated the other day
about nothing. Of course I don't want her in
the theatre against your wishes, but if she proves
as good as anybody else, I suppose youVe really
nothing against the arrangement, have you?"
Blanche shrugged her shoulders.
"Why should I have?" she said, not un-
amiably. "If she is good, engage her I"
Oliphant wrote to Alma the same day, a letter,
which gave him a glow of happiness. He told
her that in all probability he and his wife would
open the Mayfair towards the end of the follow-
ing year, and that he hoped she would be free
to come to them. The sentence in which he men-
tioned the word "salary" was a little difficult to
phrase, for while he was delighted to put money
in her pocket, he hated to have to talk about it.
It was the first time he had written to her, and
he was surprised, when he had finished, to see
that he had covered six pages. But there had
been so much to say about the piece, and his cer-
tainty that she would feel the part.
Her reply was briefer, but he seemed to hear
her speaking. "Can I say anything more than
'Thank you with all my heart'?" she wrote. Yet
278 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
she had found more to say; and almost he could
divine where she had paused with the sudden
fear that her pen was running away with her.
It was akeady close upon Christmas, and soon
the Hamiltons' tour must be ending. He would
have liked to ask Alma to call upon him and
Blanche when she returned to town, but shrank
now from speaking of her any more than he was
compelled. When Christmas came, he momen-
tarily entertained the idea of going to Burton
Crescent, in the hope that she might be staging
there again. But it would not be quite the thing!
He dismissed the notion.
The contract for the Mayfair was signed in
January; and after that the poet's progress with
Lacour's play, and the models of the scenes, and
a score of matters demanding attention crowded
thick upon one another's heels.
With the knowledge that they would crowd
more thickly still as the year advanced, Ohphant
sometimes wondered what time the business cares
of theatrical management would leave him to
remember that he was an actor too.
Blanche had considered that the auditorium
was shabby. She had stood between Otho and
Oliphant in the stalls one morning, and plucked
disconsolately at a loose piece of gimp on one of
the chairs. On the way back to the flat, it had
been apparent that she longed to see them newly
upholstered before the theatre was opened, and
when Otho suggested their renovation, the de-
lighted smile that lit her face had answered him
before she spoke. There had been a cheerful
discussion about the material to be used, Oliphant
and she holding different views. Otho inclined
to the opinion that the more effective scheme
would be the one advocated by Blanche, and
thenceforward she had had further ideas on the
He spent eight hundred pounds in gratifying
her whims — if he had had a long lease, he would
have had the house redecorated — and behind the
curtain the services of the best scenic artists had
been sought, and the company boldly organised.
880 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
The salary list, indeed, was much higher than,
the figure at which it had been originally esti-
mated, but the dress-rehearsal amply justified
the selections that had been made. Every part
was rendered well, and even Blanche did not
deny that Alma as "Astolaine" was very good.
Otho echoed the pronouncement. He and
Blanche sat in the rehabilitated stalls during the
scenes in which she could escape from the stage,
watching the progress of the rehearsal together.
He found the evening very interesting; and
although he was depressed when the thunder or
lightning came at the wrong moments, the
frenzy that such blunders begot, and the excited
altercations that ensued, added a strong element
of humour to his inexperience. There was a
fascination, too, in sitting beside Blanche, swayed
by the same interests, and exchanging criticisms
with her. The strangeness of the woman's attire,
her accentuated eyebrows, and the colour on her
cheeks, all emphasised the novelty of the situa-
tion; and once, in conunenting on the sleeves
of her costume, when she took his hand and
passed it down her arm, he felt a wave of emoticm
which a few months earlier would have astonished
Of a truth, Otho had awakened to the fact that
he admired Blanche more than was desirable-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER «81
« not for his own peace, but for ethics. His mental
state was so very undefined that it permitted
him to assure himself that he was supersensitive
and absurd to see anything wrong in it. Never-
theless, perceiving that he was regarding his
friend's wife somewhat diflPeriently from the way
in which he would have wished to regard her,
there had been one or two occasions on which he
had not failed to be distressed.
There was no room for distress in his mind,
however, on the following night. He was in-
fected by the fever that pervaded the menage in
Green Street — where Blanche and Oliphant had
obtained a furnished house. As he took his seat
in his box, he was reminded of the sensations
with which he had sometimes entered a grand-
stand. Royce, who was looking tired and ill,
had been in the theatre till late in the afternoon,
and then driven home, to snatch a hasty meal,
and endeavour to rest. The curtain rose on God
and the State at eight o'clock, and by 8.30 a
fashionable audience had assembled in the May-
fair Theatre. The pit had ceased to cry "Sshl"
and it was no longer necessary for people to keep
rising in order that late-comers, who showed no
consciousness of their discourtesy, might pass
The actor-manager's nervousness was pain-
282 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
fully apparent during his first lines, but Blanche
had her voice under better controL After Royce,
the artist whose nervousness was most visible was
Alma, passionately eager to justify Oliphant's
faith in her. Otho fancied he could detect
through his glasses that her lips trembled.
The atmosphere seemed to gather spirit by
degrees, and his craving for a strong whisky-and-
soda and a cigarette grew less intense. But he
remarked for the first time how cold at its best
was his acquaintances' weU-bred attitude towards
a theatrical performance; and then with an
anxiety which he had never imagined that
journalists could be capable of inspiring under
his shirt-front, he glanced speculatively at the
rows of Press men, and at a box opposite, where
one critic sat alone.
The curtain f eU at twenty minutes' past eleven,
and a number of the fashionable audience that
had come in late, trooped through the pass-door
to the stage, where Blanche was a triumphant
hostess. The play, they exclaimed, was a
"dream," it was "sweet," it was "quite too de
lightful upon their honour." Where the poetry
had been spoken there was now a gush of in-
sincere congratulation. Many of the smiling
visitors thought the performance dreadfully dull,
as did the majority of the pit and gallery, who
THE ACTOR-MANAGER St8S
had coughed and shuffled with irritating fre-
quency during some of the scenes. But in the
flow of felicitation, six months was the shortest
run that anybody permitted himself to prophesy.
However, most of the notices could be caUed
favourable to the production. Some insisted that
Lacour was a lyric poet, and not a dramatist,
limiting their approval to the way the work had
been Englished, and the manner in which it was
played; a few praised it unreservedly. There
were plenty of excerpts to be made for advertis-
ing purposes, "the good quotable line" being
absent only from the opinions of the novices, who
were learning syntax by "criticising" for the
least important periodicals. It now remained to
be seen how God and the State would be sup-
ported by the public.
Blanche and Otho were sanguine, though the
receipts were not immediately all that could be
wished; they whom misgivings already oppressed
were Oliphant, and the woman whom the Press
had agreed to describe as "an actress of con-
spicuous ability, hitherto unknown to London."
Every evening when he came oflP, in the first act,
by the door at which she was waiting to make her
earliest entrance. Alma looked an inquiry, and
he stopped to answer it. But there was really
no need for him to say that the house was bad
284 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
again — she could read it in his face; nor did it
need words from her to tell him that she was the
only person who understood how much he had at
Between these two, whom life, which has no
construction and no moral, had once thrown
together, and speedily separated — ^who had met
again by chance when the weaker cme was mar-
ried, and been again divided by circumstances
until the man's purpose brought the woman into
his own theatre — ^there had always been a sym-
pathy, which now grew stronger daily. Daily,
Oliphant looked forward with greater eagerness
to their next conversation, and remembered more
vividly their preceding one. And meanwhile his
home became less and less congenial Blandie
with a well-appointed house in a fashionable
quarter, did not allow her opportunities to be
fettered by the theatre receipts. She had re-
moved to Green Street in order to entertain^ and
she was resolved to fulfil her intenticxu Her
social functions seemed to him incessant, and
from any one of them the actor-manager would
joyfully have escaped to take his way to the
lodgings in Bloomsbury that held Alma. He
knew no more of her lodgings than their address,
for she had not been asked to Green Street.
That his wife had omitted to invite her was
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 886
due to indiflPerence, and not to any objection to
Royce's conversations with Miss King. Their
conversations, since he had proclaimed that they
were such devoted friends, she found natural
enough. Moreover, she would have been un-
willing to do him the honour of evincing jealousy,
unless there had been a scandal which compeUed
her to insist that the other woman, whoever she
might be, should leave the theatre. Blanche was
too much elated to be jealous. True, the business
remained bad, but her passion for paragraphs
was now gratified abundantly, and at the worst,
God and the State would prove a failure. Kirt-
land's drama would be a hit, she supposed — ^his
name alone was a draw — and then the failure
would be retrieved. But she was sorry for Otho,
because to him there hadn't been any benefit
whatever from the venture. He was so "gentle-
manly about the returns I" And really it was
"something to be looked at again by a man who
was in love with her I Of course there were
plenty of men who tried to look as if they were —
through monocles in every drawing-room. But
that was only because she was on the stage, and
with the ignorance of the outsider, they thought
that all actresses were to be had. Otho was
really in love with her. Poor fellow, how happy
he would have been as her husband 1"
286 THE ACTOR-MANAOER
A wcxnan's reflections cannot progress so far
as this without her manner altering^ towards the
man; and it was ^en Blanche's manner first
altered, that Otho perceived with pcMgnant self-
reproach that he could no longer appl^ sahre to
his ccxisdence by the terms ''siq>ersensitiTe'* and
"'absurd.'* He was at this period strong enou^
to leave lAmdan, if there had been no reascHi for
his remaining, but he was weak enough to find
sufficient reascm in his interest in the Mayf air.
Unable now to d»iy his sentiments, he to-day
assuaged remorse by assuring himself that they
didn't matter, because she would never know.
That he must sustain a heavy loss by the initial
production was speedily apparent, and it was
decided that Kirtland's drama should be put into
rehearsal when Crod and the State had been run-
ning three weeks. Oliphant felt needlessly
guilty, but he was confid^it that they were now
about to rehearse a work which would attract aU
Eirtland, being a dramatist with a literary
reputation and an independence, had reached the
point where he could afford to be courageous,
and as he was a writer of brilliant ability, his
courage had fascinating results. Already he had
written two plays of psychological interest whidi
had been great artistic successes, and in The
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 887
Average Man he had at last dared to say all he
thought. Had he deliberately sat down to con-
trovert Theophile Gautier's dictum that the
theatre never becomes possessed of an idea until
fiction has worn it threadbare, he could not have
made a bolder experiment. To Oliphant it ap-
peared to be one that would emancipate the Eng-
lish stage and make an epoch.
He had lent the manuscript to Alma, and he
awaited her opinion more anxiously than he had
asked for Otho's; far more anxiously than he
had asked his wife's.
"It's magnificent," she said. "I don't know
if his view is right, but it's a view to hear, and to
think about. And the dialogue — the grip of it I
Did you say I was to play 'Mrs. Ivery'?"
"I hope you like the part?" He believed that
she would have played the heroine's better, but
naturally Blanche must have that, though she
would not be so subtle in it.
She read his thought, as she read all he had.
"I like it very much," she replied quickly. "I
like my part, and I admire the play — it's worthy
of the Dream Theatre. Oh, please Heaven, it
will be all right ! I pray for it."
"Our Dream Theatre has opened badly," he
She nodded. "But it wiU come I"
S88 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"I thmk so."
"You need never go back to four or five
pounds a week in the provinces anyhow 1" ex-
claimed Oliphant, after a pause.
"Ah, don't say ^anyhow* ! And I wasn't think-
ing of myself when I said that I prayed."
"I know. Only Fm glad, at least, that *'
"You wiU have much more to be glad about
But I thank you. YouVe done a great deal for
me, Mr. Oliphant — I shall never forget it as long
as I live."
"I don*t want your thanks," he said; "I hate
your thanks. If youVe talent, thank God for
it — / didn't give it to you. I want your friend-
ship; and every time you *thank' me you make
me a stranger to you."
When her cue came, Oliphant went down to
his dressing-room, realising, as he had realised
before, that he had uttered a lie. It was not her
friendship that he wanted, but her love. He
loved her. He loved the timbre of her voice, and
the comprehension of her silence, and inanimate
things that she had hallowed by her touch. He
loved her with the mind that she had dominated
and the soul that was rendered greater by his
love. He loved her too truly ever to teU her the
truth. Again a man believed that he could love
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 289
without the woman knowing it. If he had been
free, and could have won her, triumphs would
have been transfigured and failures robbed of
their sting; if he had been free, he wovld have
won her, and life could hold no more than that I
Once happiness had been within his reach, and
he had blundered by it. To-day he looked back,
empty-handed, from a celibacy that had no
rights. But though he could never toucl^^ her
lips, she was his Ideal; and that he might be
worthy to worship her he would always be faith-
ful to his wife. Temptation was not avoiding
him — it was in the front of his theatre often, and
in his own house, and in the drawing-rooms of
others; but to Oliphant it had seemed that to
break his marriage-oath would make him guilty,
not towards Blanche, not towards Grod, but
towards Alma King. Lowered by an intrigue,
he could not have met her eyes. Herself he
would not have taken had she been willing to
come to him — and he would not insult her by
accepting anything less.
The Average Man was eulogised by those
organs which embody the views of the critical
for the delectation of the cultured; it was received
with respect by the entire Press ; it was even com-
mented on by the public. It did not, of course,
excite the interest aroused by a football match,
but its thesis was mentioned; there were a great
many people in London who said "Fancy T*
However, though Oliphant had continued to
play it for two months, and hoped against hope,
the drama was a financial failure, and this time
Blanche was not a whit less anxious than he,
for the rent, and the servants, and the cost of her
luncheon and dinner parties, swelled the house-
hold expenses to a sum which was by no means
covered by her and Royce's salary. Besides
being anxious, she was incensed, for the less
ardent of the newspapers had questioned whether
the subject was one "calculated to attract the
general playgoer, who, as we have often insisted,
seeks before all things to be amused," etc., and
she blamed Royce bitterly for his lack of judg-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 291
ment. She might have foreseen the issue, she
felt: she had obtained a theatre for him, and now
his idiosyncrasies were going to ruin theml
Otho had denied himself Green Street for
more than a fortnight when he came one morning
in response to a note from her. It was not acci-
dental that he found her alone, for she had ap-
pointed the morning.
"I'm frightfully worried," she declared when
he had lighted a cigarette. "Don't I look dread-
ful? Don't I? I feel a hundred. You know
you must be firm! You promised me you would
be. I told you six weeks ago that this thing was
a frost. Now Royce is considering a play that's
simply fore-doomed, and he says he has talked
to you about it. You should object 1 You must
tell him that you want your theatre to pay."
"Royce wants it to pay, you know," he said
uneasily; "I — I can't very well take an attitude
that looks like It's nobody's fault up to the
present, is it ? The pieces have been good enough.
Heaven knows I"
"I've warned you," she sighed; "I can't do any
more. But, I tell you, I feel simply miserable
when I think what you've lost — ^if it hadn't been
for me we shouldn't have had the theatre I"
"Oh, don't talk hke that; we shall have a big
success directly, and "
292 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"Never/* she said emphatically. "BeKeve me,
Mr. Fairbaim, 'never' 1 It's a fact. Unless
Royce is checked — ^if you don't make a stand —
we shall have one failure after another. I see it.
It will mean thousands to you, and it will mean —
weU, I don't know what it will mean to us! The
Bankruptcy Court I suppose 1 We can't go cm
like this long."
"I was afraid your affairs couldn't be alto-
gether roseate; I've been thinking about it. I —
if — of course if there has been bad judgment, it's
been as much mine as Royce's, and — ^and it's cmly
right that I should share the responsibility. I
must have a chat with him. There needn't be
any duns, Mrs. Royce."
"Do you think I'd let Royce borrow money
from you?" she exclaimed. 'TTes, I know, you'd
lend it gladly — you'd do anything for us I be-
lieve ! but I wouldn't let him take it. And besides
I couldn't if I wanted to."
"Why? How do you mean you ^couldn't*?"
"Because Royce doesn't quite know the state
we are in. And I don't want to tell him."
"It needn't bother him if he can put things
straight. It would be only a loan. When the
success does come "
"I didn't mean because he'd be bothered," she
said; "at least, not only that. You see / insisted
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 293
on this house, and asked the people here, and
made the debts. I did it for the best; the policy
was right enough — if the business had been
decent, there wouldn't have been any trouble:
but Fm the *culpritM I don't want Royce to
turn round on me — as he would — and reproach
me. That would be the last straw I"
"Oh," cried Otho, "how could he reproach you?
He wouldn't I"
Her eyebrows rose. "Wouldn't he? But it
isn't a question of money. I only want you to
exert your authority, to have the theatre con-
ducted on proper lines. There's a piece now in
Paris just produced — a piece of Reybaud's;
there's a notice of it in The Era this week. It
could be bought, it could be adapted, and might
make a fortune for us. But no I Royce wants
a 'masterpiece' that is going to bring us to the
workhouse instead. Oh, it drives me mad to
think about it I"
"Why not speak to him of Reybaud's piece?"
suggested Otho. "I couldn't urge it much be-
cause I'm no judge; but you — ^you might pro-
pose it, and use your influence with Royce."
" 'Influence'?" she echoed. "Do you really
imagine that I've any influence with Royce?"
She laughed. "Why, my dear boy, I've no more
S94 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
influence over Royce than I have over the Prime
"Do you mean that " He looked at her
incredulously. "Do you mean that your advice
— your request — ^would have no weight with him?
Wouldn't he pay any attention to it?"
"Certainly not," she said. She met tlie young
man's startled eyes for some seconds signifi-
cantly. Then in a quiet voice, and without lower-
ing her gaze, she added: "Royce and I have been
strangers for more than two years."
In the silence that followed Otho stared
dizzily at the fire. The suddenness with which
she had leapt the limits of conventional parlance
gave him a sensation resembling fright, and he
could think of no words for answer. At last he
stammered with an effort:
"Of course I'll try to do what you wish, with
pleasure. I'm awfully grieved to hear that
things are wrong; I always thought that you and
he were so happy together."
She smiled faintly, a little to one side, her
nether-lip indented by her teeth.
"I'm the loneliest woman in the world."
The compassion on his face was delicious to
her, and, watching him, she was sincerely sorry
for herself. Words now thronged his mind only
too insistently, and he sat torn between the desire
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 296
to tell her how deeply he sympathised with her,
and the knowledge that if he obeyed the impulse,
he would surely say something that would make
it impossible for him to take Oliphant's hand
"Don't look hke that," she murmured. "It
"What can I say?" he exclaimed. "It's so
hard for a man to show a woman whom he
mustn't — who is no relation to him that he's
sorry for herl"
"You needn't say anything — I know you're
"It wasn't two years ago that we had our first
talk about the theatre," he said after another
"No," she said, "I know."
"And you were then ?"
She nodded. "But I was fond of him still and
ambitious for him. A woman doesn't become
indifferent all at once."
His eyes filled. She seemed to him all that
was noble and strong to endure.
"Ah, don't I Ah, SiUy Billy," she said half
playfully, half tenderly, "you mustn'tr
Otho turned aside, and ht another cigarette
with fingers that trembled a little*
296 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"YouVe cut me up horribly," he muttered. "I
wish to God I could do something for youP
"You have, with your friendship. I don't
know anybody I could have talked to like this
"We are friends, aren't we?" he asked. **We
always shaU be?"
"I'm sure we shaU!"
"Well, let me do what I suggested just now,"
he said eagerly. "I don't mean to let me speak
to Royce about it, but to arrange it with you.
It isn't much, but I shan't feel so infernally use-
less. If you'll only give me an idea of the sum,
I'll post a cheque this afternoon. Will you? Let
me put an end to your money worries, do!"
He had fulfilled a hope that had awakened in
her ten minutes ago. It had then occurred to
her that the loan made to herself privately would
dispose of the difficulties, and spare her the un-
pleasantness of owning their full extent to
Oliphant; but now, while her perception of the
circumstances remained quite as acute, sentiment
forbade her to take advantage of the young
man's love for her. She would have done it ten,
five, two minutes ago — but the tears had come
into his eyes about her. She shook her head.
And his persuasions failed to move her out-
wardly, though inwardly she wavered of ten^ and
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 897
hoped he would believe her obdurate before she
lost her footing on these imaccustomed heights.
When he had gone, regretful, she thought of him
with admiration for having raised her so much
in her self-esteem.
To complete Oliphant's unhappinesSi and to
darken his outlook, it had needed only that he
should be required to stultify the expressed pur-
pose for which a theatre had been taken. By
Blanche's arguments that they could not be
popular socially unless the receipts enabled them
to entertain, he had been uninfluenced — ^he did
not seek social popularity; and between reaping
the profit that would content her, and justifying
Fairbaim's experiment, there was a wide differ-
ence. He had been firm in the face of their
increasing liabilities, merely praying that their
expenditure might in future be reduced; he had
been as resolute as he could be as an actor-
manager with a backer. But when the backer
joined forces with the actor-manager's wife,
Nevertheless the artist did not succumb im-
mediately; he proposed Shakespeare as a com-
promise. In London, if not in the provinces,
he urged, Shakespeare could be made to pay,
ameliorated by elaborate scenery, as a powder
by a tablespoonful of jam. Shakespeare might
298 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
prove successful, and Shakespeare would be art
But Blanche did not want to play Shakespeare,
and she harped on Felix Reybaud's JLa Curieuse,
the latest product of a playwright who was
sincere in nothing but his desire to tickle the
public taste; a piece which owed its success in
Paris, not to its characterisation, not to any
insight into life, but to a gratuitous immorality
and 'le doigte du dramatin-ge."
Oliphant shrank from confessing this new
trouble to Alma; he felt that it would be soon
enough to speak of defeat when he had agreed
to surrender. But for the first time Blanche
suspected that she was encouraging his views.
Umbrage had already been taken at several of
the Press notices, which had intimated that
''Miss King's acting had the rare and indefinable
quality of intellectuality,'* the word "rare" being
foimd an insult by implication* OriginaUy one
critic had said it; but there had poured in a
multitude of cuttings from newspapers published
in almost every county in the kin^om, and as
some of the obscurer journals inserted the Ixm-
don criticisms verbatim as the opinions of im-
aginary Correspondents, the manageress had had
the anoyance of reading the objectionable sen-
tence more than once. The suspicion now
aroused in her increased the disfavour with whidi
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 899
she had begun to regard Miss King. And as
a cuhninating offence, Ahna chanced, on the
evening of the discussion, to receive some ap-
plause at a point where hitherto there had not
been any. The scene was one between her and
Blanche, who stood for two or three seconds at
a disadvantage. It was resentfully referred to
directly they were together in the wings.
"What was the meaning of that roimd. Miss
King? You've never had a hand there till to-
"I was surprised myself," answered Alma.
"But I think I felt the lines more than usual."
"Well, the next time you're going to feel them
perhaps you'll let me knowl" said Blanche
sharply. "I don't want to be put out by your
applause again 1"
But here irritation was too complex to evapo-
rate in a rebuke. To herself she said that since
King's influence was supporting Royce in his
folly, she shouldn't remain at the Mayfair. Mo-
mentarily she questioned if she was mistaking
the nature of the influence. But no; she did not
think thatl Royce was deceiving her doubtless,
but not with King; and the credit, she should
imagine, was the woman's.
Creditable, or not, however, she did not want
her in the company, and she trusted that La
800 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
Curieuse, if they secured it, would prove to con-
tain no part for her. The argument about the
piece was repeated in Green Street the following
afternoon. Otho was lunching there, and Oli-
phant again dwelt upon his wish to revive a
"But Mrs. Royce doesn't care for the idea,"
said Otho. "What is your objection to Rcy-
baud? I always understood that he was first-
**Well, of course he is!" Blanche exclaimed.
**We mayn't be able to get the thing if we try —
there'll be twenty people after it. Reybaud?
If Reybaud hasn't a great reputation, I'm an
amateur, Royce, I know nothing about the stage.
Who in Paris has, then?"
"It depends what you mean by 'reputation,' "
said Oliphant wearily. "His name is very widely
known; the crowd think him a very clever man.
If that is 'reputation,' you're quite right."
"Well, I should certainly say it toasr she
answered. She glanced at Otho: "Wouldn't
"I must admit, old chap," he murmured, "that
I think you're inclined to be hypercriticaL I'm
fairly well-read, and I flatter myself I'm not
devoid of taste, but Reybaud's plays are quite
good enough for me."
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 801
Oliphant drummed his fingers restlessly on the
cloth. "'Do you ask as much from the theatre
as you do from your books?" he returned. "Does
Reybaud satisfy you in the library?"
"IVe never read him. But IVe seen two or
three of his pieces, and| I'm bound to say, en-
"And anyhow," said Blanche, "it isn't a ques-
tion of reading in the library; it isn't a question
whether he's good, bad, or indifferent — ^the ques-
tion is whether he succeeds."
Otho was silent, and Oliphant looked at him
"Is that your view too?" he asked. "It wasn't
the view you held when we took the theatre. You
knew what my aim was from the beginning.
Heaven knows you can't be sorrier than I am
for the way things have gone so far, but it was
never imderstood between us that if fine work
spelt failure, I was to play rubbish to retrieve it.
I don't want a theatre to play rubbish; I'd rather
have none than be in management to give the
lie to intentions I've expressed all my life."
He turned to Blanche. "If you don't care for
nine-tenths of Shakespeare, surely there's one
character that attracts you? Is there no choice
between the best modem work and F61ix Rey-
808 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
Otho replied for her, with affected lightness.
"'Dear old man/' he said, fidgeting with his
coffee spoon, ""aren't you taking the matter too
seriously? If we — er — if we made a mistake
when we opened the house — ^and I suppose we
did make a mistake — ^it seems to me that we
should make a bigger one still if we were ashamed
to acknowledge it. When all is said, the theatre
is the theatre, it's a place of entertainment; aren't
you rather apt to forget that? What is it
Austin Dobson says? —
Tamassus' peaks still catch the sun;
But why, O lyric brother !
Why build a pulpit on the one,
A platform on the other?'
I think it appUes, Royce."
Oiiphant had turned very pale, and the last
vestige of hope sank from his heart He nodded
"Yes," he said; "perhaps the pulpit is too
strong in me. But circumstances are stronger,
aren't they? We won't argue any more; we'll
try to get La Curieuse/^
Now, when he was beaten, he longed for
Alma's consolation, even while he winced at the
thought of avowing his decision to her. If she
knew all, she would be compassionate; but he
could not disclose all, and he trembled lest she
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 803
should find the obvious insufficient to exonerate
him. She had once told him that he was weak —
he had remembered that since; perhaps she would
view him only as a renegade clinging to power
at the price of his faith?
But her gaze was clearer than he guessed. She
saw that he had mated his antithesis; and
partially she imderstood. Her pity for him had
never been so earnest, nor the love that had
been bom in her so deep. Only now she knew
how deep it was, this love that yearned to burst
from her lips and eyes — knew that if he had
come to her ashamed, a coward and apostate
self -condemned, she would have loved him still.
And Blanche was twice triumphant: for per-
sistent effort obtained the EngUsh rights of La
Curieuse, and there was no character in the piece
that even Oliphant could assert would suit Miss
King. As a manageress Blanche was annoyed
at this period only by her father, who on hearing
that the policy of the theatre was to be changed,
had developed an imexpected tone, and finally
appeared to have on hand a large assortment of
rejected manuscripts ranging from melodrama
to musical comedy. She did not read them, but
he wrote urgent letters to her on the subject, and
importimed her in her drawing-room, imtil she
was so angered that she would have produced in
804 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
preference the weakest of the plays that were
submitted to the theatre daily by unknown men.
The adaptation of Reybaud's work had been
entrusted to Campion, with the assurance that
it would be put into rehearsal as speedily as the
parts could be type-written. Stimulated by such
startling propinquity to fees — ^he was still await-
ing the production of a comedy that had been
accepted five years ago — ^he completed the task
in ten days, and the run of The Average Man,
which was entailing a loss every week, drew to a
Alma had not regretted to learn that her en-
gagement at the Mayfair must terminate. In-
deed, she had already asked herself if she could
remain there even were she desired to do so.
Although she honoured Royce too greatly to
think he would confess his love, honoured her-
self too much to fear she would betray her own,
the very hopelessness with which she' contem-
plated meeting him no more showed her that their
meetings shoidd cease. After she left his theatre
their lines would lie apart; she might remain in
London — ^that was to be expected now — and yet
rarely speak to him again. She would see him
from the stalls sometimes, and read his notices,
and pray for his success; but it was very seldom
that they would meet each other in the streets.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 805
Oliphant realised that too. He felt it as he
talked to her on the last night, hungering to
take her hand before the moment of adieu.
From the stage, which he had just left, the
dialogue of the fourth act reached them, and
when the curtain fell, it would fall upon the end
of more than the piece. To-night he still was
playing literatiu*e, and stood beside the woman
he loved — ^to-morrow the theatre would be void
"So it is nearly over," he said. "Tor the
play, I remember, pleased not the million; 'twas
caviare to the general.' Are you going to wish
me *luck' before you go?" For the first time
he made no effort to conceal his humiliation.
"I wish it now," she answered with the ghost
of a smile. "I hope The Modem Eve will draw
all London. You ought to feel confident: Cam-
pion writes very smartly, and I hear that Rey-
baud has never done anything more — ^more strik-
ing than La Curieuse.'*
"Then you congratulate me? . . . Hark!
they're a good audience to-night, aren't they?
It has never gone so well."
"It has always gone well — ^with the people
who came," she murmured.
"With the people who came," repeated Oli-
phant. He turned to her passionately. **Why/'
80e THE ACTOR-MANAGER
he exclaimed, "why have I failed? You know
IVe failed. You don't say so, but you know it,
and you know that I know it. Why? It wasn't
to play La Curieuse that I dreamed of manage-
ment; we didn't think of Reybaud when we
talked in Brighton — and outside the Museum
that day. I hate this theatre! IVe lost another
man's money, and my own hope. My God!
I'm going to produce the w6rst example of
the worst school, and I haven't the right to
"Look forward!" she cried; "don't look back!
No, you have not failed. Hark again! — that is
applause for fine work. Re-read the criticisms!
— there is a Press that has imderstood and sup-
ported you from the first. Your theatre is too
big, your expenses are too large; here you must
depend upon the 'million.' One day you will
fight for your belief again; and with a smaller
house you'll conquer yet."
He looked away from her, with haggard eyes,
at the imattainable. Yes, with her he would
have conquered yet; but the futiwe that he
could foresee held nothing. With her, thought
would have been exalted, and purpose fortified
by the grandeur of her own souL He knew it,
as — in the mightiness of his longing for her — ^he
knew that this defeat wringing his heart to-night
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 807
would have been welcome if for one moment it
had yielded him the comfort of her kiss.
Now from the stage and the mouth of his wife,
came the cue for his return to the scene ; and when
he spoke to Alma next, the last night had ended,
and she wore her coat and hat. She had taken
leave of Blanche and him together before she
went to her dressing-room, but he had hastened
from his, as she had divined he would, to clasp
her hand again. It was the single weakness of
which she had been guilty that her hand was bare.
They stood for a minute in the whitewashed
passage, face to face.
"Are you wrapped up enough? Won't you
"Oh, this stuflF is very thick," she said, "and
it's warmly lined besides."
"You ought to turn up the collar," he mur-
mured; "you've nothing roimd your throat."
"No, I'm quite aU right; really!"
"You'll have a cab? It's snowing hard, some-
"Yes, I've sent for one — I expect it's here
"Well, I — I wish you all the success and happi-
ness you can ask for yourself. But you know
that, don't you?"
"Yes, I'm sure of it. And — ^you'll never say
808 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
youVe lost your hope any more, will you? Good-
"Good-night,*' he said. . . • "I wish you'd
turn your collar up."
"There I Now I'm quite safe," she answered,
And in this fashion the man and woman be-
tween whom not a word of love had yet been
spoken said good-bye.
''To speak in more favourable terms of The
Modem Eve would be practically to discredit the
enterprise and judgment of a manager who had
inspired the hope that "
Yesl Oliphant had foreseen that. He was
reading a notice cut from one of the journals
to which Alma had referred when she said there
was a Press that had supported him. He picked
"It may not be astonishing that The Average
Man should be foUowed by The Inquisitive
Woman, but it is distressing. In Paris I was
merely bored by La Curieuse, but at the Mayf air
I was pained. I hasten to say that my pain
was by no means shared by the audience, who
evidently found in M. Reybaud's work, judi-
ciously watered by Mr. Campion, a pabulum to
their taste. Nevertheless "
There was a third slip lying beside him — ^the
tone was the same, a tone of irony and regret.
From these organs he had derived gleams of
810 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
consolation hitherto, and he winced this morning
as if three friends had turned their faces from
him in the street.
But the piece had been produced a week, and
was playing to exceUent business. The booking
was increasing daily, and there was every promise
that a great financial success would be achieved.
When the box-oflBce sheets were so agreeable to
peruse, he would be held unreasonable to be de-
pressed by three columns of type I
In a month from the date of the production
Blanche's caprice had been abundantly justified.
Boards announcing that the house was full were
displayed outside the Mayf air every evening, and
in the presence of such good f ortime his attitude
exasperated her. That he should comport him-
self as if they had had another failure, when
they had the longest advertisement in The Daily
Telegraph, and a demand for boxes, and queues
at the pit and gallery-doors hours before they
opened, was an annoyance which not even the
additional frequency of her entertainments could
assuage. He was truly an impossible person I
She felt it more and more. An ordinary man
would have owned that his judgment had been
at fault, and thanked her; but did her husband?
So far from acknowledging his error, he didn't
seem to recognise that it had been demonstrated.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 811
If it had not been for Otho, she would have been
miserable; his was the only real companionship
that she had. And then Royce remonstrated,
and called her improvident because she gave
parties I In truth — ^the reflection occurred to
her one afternoon as she mused by the fire — in
truth she was taking a very noble course in doing
so; it was not every woman in hrer position who
would have striven to interest herself in social
gaieties when a young man with thousands a year
was dying of love for her I
Did she care for him seriously? She pursed
her lips; well, not as she had cared for Royce
once, of course — ^that had been a headstrong
passion; she would never have married Otho
Fairbairn if he had been an actor in his third
London engagement. StiU she did like him.
As he was, she would marry him like a shot if
she were free. Good Lord, how happy she'd have
been with him I "Happy"? What a word for
the life she might have led! The jeweDery he
would have bought for her; and the horses and
carriages! — she'd have had a Russian sable rug
in the victoria, and — and she would have had a
theatre too — ^he would have let her do anything
she pleased! . . . Her foot was resting on the
fender, and she admired it pensively. Royce
wouldn't despair; but that would be the end of
81« THE ACTOR-MANAGER
her friendship with the Flecks and Oh no,
no, she was a virtuous woman I
She had found occasion to remind herself of
it; and, though she did not realise the fact, the
thought that had given her pause was that if
she sinned she would lose Society.
The hundredth night of The Modem Eve was
reached without any diminution of the receipts,
and Oliphant rejoiced like a prisoner who ap-
proaches release. Now that the money that had
been lost by the earlier plays would be recovered,
he would be free to teU Fairbaim that he wished
to withdraw from the theatre. Management on
the lines he was required to travel henceforward
was a prospect before which he quailed; and since
the remainder of the lease could be transferred
easily enough, there would be no cause for com-
plaint on either side. That the adaptation would
continue to attract the public until the middle
of July — that its run in London would have
made the Mayf air a profitable speculation — ^there
could be no doubt. Therefore he would not
even take the detested piece "out" in the autiunnl
That Otho should not suflFer by his hatred of it,
he would accept the best of the numerous ofiPers
for the provincial rights.
When Blanche inquired whether an autumn
tour was being arranged, he told her "no,"
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 818
**Well, isn't it time we got some dates?" she
askecL "What have we got an acting-manager
for? I tell you that man is no use — ^he looks very
nice, but that's aU he thinks about 1 I hear, when
everybody was coming out the other evening, he
stood at the top of the stairs saying good-night
to three girls he'd passed in. That sort of thing
lets the show down, you know I It's very bad —
people think that half the house is paper."
OUphant hesitated nervously. "Look here,
Blanche," he said, "I don't want to go out with
the piece, that's why nothing is being done. If
Otho gets his money back, I want to drop The
Modem Eve, and the Mayf air too. Let us take
engagements again; I can't go on this way."
"You want to drop the Mayf air?" she stam-
mered, paling. "Do you mean it?"
"I can't go onl" he repeated. "Oh, for
Heaven's sake try to see it from my point of
view for once; don't let's have another argument!
I'm ashamed — that's the word; I couldn't resign
myself to playing this sort of stuff; I couldn't!"
She looked at him speechlessly, her blue eyes
ablaze with wrath.
"I think you're a lunatic," she said hoarsely,
at last. "My God! I think you're a lunatic;
I do, on my soul! You'd hke to ruin yourself
and everybody connected with you."
dl4 THE ACTOR-MANAGEA
"If Otho gets his money back
"Oh, don't talk to me about getting his money
backl" she exclaimed. "Whom has he got to
thank for it, you or me? Would you ever have
got it back for him? Never in this world I And
when I proposed the piece which by your own
showing has rescued you, rescued you from the
overwhelming burden of a West End theatre,
you had the insolence to sneer at me in front of
"I 'sneered' at you? When?"
"You know very well whenl When we were
discussing the piece at lunch that day. You
know you did! Your whole tone was an insult
— ^making out that I was uneducated and had
no taste. You tried to make me look as small as
you could. But he didn't think any more of you
for it, I could seel"
"What you say is absolutely untrue. That
we shall never feel the same way about the stage
as long as we live I'm quite sure, but it can't be
necessary to quarrel about it. As to Otho's hav-
ing to thank you for our present success, that's
a fact that I've admitted often."
"You haven't!" she cried; "and youWe had
cause to thank me a damned sight more than
Otho, if you knew itl" Her rage had mastered
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 815
"I don't understand you," said Oliphant
sternly; "you can explain yourself when you
can talk like a lady."
"I don't wish to talk at alll . . . If you'd like
to know what I mean, I told him that you ought
to have a theatre — I knew you never would 1
And he quite agreed with me; that's why he
made you the oflFer."
"I see," said Oliphant; "that was it? Yes,
I suppose I have had cause to thank you. I'd
rather you hadn't done it, though it may sound
ungrateful to say so. Well, we have had our
theatre, and it hasn't fulfiUed my hopes. Can't
we recognise the fact calmly?"
"It hasn't fulfilled your hopes? We are coin-
ing money, and it hasn't fulfiUed Oh I oh
no, please don't say any more I" She clasped her
head. "I am at my limit! It's quite understood
— ^you are going to give it up. That's enough 1"
She did not speak again during the day, and
a perfunctory remark that he oflFered at dinner
feU still-bom. At seven o'clock they drove to
the Mayfair, where the audience heard the first
words that she had addressed to him for nine
hours. Their love-scenes, however, "went" as
weD as usual, and when he led her before the
curtain, and she smiled td his bow, the suggestion
of connubial felicity was beautiful to behold.
316 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
But though she was resolved not to reopen
the subject until the time came when it could
no longer be ignored, Blanche could dwell on
little else. When Otho presented himself, per-
turbed, for an explanation, she again rendered
a mental tribute to his sympathy. Her hope
that Oliphant would recant was of the slightest
— his second thoughts would doubtless be as be-
sotted as his first I Dismay engulfed her, and
the ignominy of abdication poisoned her very
Her reveries were now more frequent than
before. The silence between her and Oliphant
had been broken, but her grievance was manifest
in her accents, and their speech was very con-
strained. She had no heart to visit, and he lacked
heart to sit at home viewing her resentment
Hence she was often alone in the Green Street
drawing-room, and — as the reverberation of his
announcement subsided — to enhven her solitude
she once or twice returned with curious eyes to
the edge of the abyss from which two months
ago she had started back afraid. She could now
look down without turning dizzy quite so soon.
She repeated that there would be no more cards
like these lying in a tray on her table. "Yes,
she would be making a great sacrifice for himr'
Of course — ^just for pastime imagining that she
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 817
did do such a thing — after the divorce he would
marry her; there was no doubt about that.
People did forget in time — especially when one
was an actress. And really, if they didn't plenty
of women would regard a vast fortune as ample
compensation. She could not do so herself; but
plenty of women would! Plenty of women
would consider that they were quite justified in
leaving a husband like Roycel What joy had
she in her life? If her dear little baby had been
spared to her, she would never have been
tempted. Ah, her sweet little baby, how devoted
she had been to him I When a man was indiflFer-
ent to his wife, it wasn't astonishing if her crav-
ing for afiPection proved too great for her
strength. This tenderness that had been awak-
ened in her was natural. As Royce had said
when he proposed to her, to be an artist a woman
Just because she had attempted to luU despair
for five minutes by the writing of a little para-
graph I If he had had human instincts, he would
have pitied her the more for that pathetic eflFort.
And he was to allow himself aU latitude, while
she was denied consolation? Plenty of women
would laugh at her as a fool! Of course he was
false to her — ^how could she question it even for
818 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
an instant? He was false to her with — with
This new idea offered her comfort. In the
days that f oUowed she strove to believe it. Alma
was now playing at the FaU MaU, and Oliphant
had not seen her since she left their company,
but Blanche wished to persuade herself that they
were guilty. Vague accusations of infidelity no
longer satisfied her, and to excuse her own in-
creased temptation, she sought to point definitely
to the woman.
The Modem Eve achieved its destiny, and as
the business dropped and the general exodus
from town commenced, it was decided that in
another fortnight Oliphant's reign at the May-
fair should cease.
Blanche accepted his intimation of the fact
with the fewest words possible, and rewarded
herself for their sparsity by many comments to
Otho. Passionately as she had exulted in the
possession of a theatre, it seemed to her in this
final fortnight that she had never appreciated it
enough. Each time the door-keeper touched his
cap to her as she entered, she suffered a pang,
in picturing him saluting another manageress
soon. The star-room where she dressed stung
her with the reminder that where she played her
next part the star-room would be another's. The
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 819
respect of the vilified acting-manager with the
returns was a sword-thrust, as she realised how
speedily she would have declined to the insignifi-
cance of a salary.
And as the days shpped past, Otho Fairbaim
suflFered no less acutely. She would lose power,
and he would lose pretext. With the closure of
the Mayfair, the ostensible motive for his dalli-
ance in London would be removed; and he stood
face to face with the truth. Now he must either
go away and resign himself to misery, or realise
that he was too violently in love with his friend's
wife to leave her. He decided to go away.
He determined the matter in the small hours
while he lay praying for sleep, or his shaving-
water; and in the afternoon when the sun shone,
and he drifted to Green Street, he felt ennobled
by his resolution.
Blanche, as was so often the case latterly, was
sipping tea by herself. It was the half -hour he
always found most charming. The shaded room
was restful after the glare of the Park, and the
flowers looked cooler within doors, and sweeter.
Their fragrance too could be detected here; as
he greeted her he felt the perfume of the roses
she was wearing, roses that he saw had been
chosen from the basket that he had sent.
"I wondered if you would come round," she
880 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
said. "'Thanks ever so much for those — ^they're
"Have you been out?" he asked, dropping into
"No; it's too hot WeD? Tea?"
"Thanks. Weill *Our story approaches the
end'? It's extraordinary the hold a theatre takes
on one; I begin to feel as if I'd been interested
in the Mayf air all my life. I shall be lost when
She sighed. "And ir
**WeIl, you'll be on the stage — ^it won't be
quite the same thing; J shall only be able to sit
in the stalls. You can't imagine how I shall miss
the pass-door and the wings. At least, you can,
because you're an actress, but a good many
people would think it affectation."
"I suppose the wings somewhere might still be
possible?" she said. "But I understand what
you mean, of course. You don't really think it
wiU be a greater change for you than me, though?
You can always run a theatre if you want to —
that isn't difficult. To me — oh, my dear boy, the
change wiD be frightful! Now that you've given
me a taste for management I shaU simply hate
an engagement; I shall loathe it I"
He looked his commiseration, and she nodded
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 881
"It will be hideous. To have to go to rehearsal
whether I'm in the humour or not, and be dictated
to by the stage-manager, and have my pet busi-
ness altered to improve somebody else's part,
and Oh, you haven't an ideal When a
woman who has once been her own manageress
takes an engagement again, I can teU you she
feels the diflFerence hereJ^ She put her hand to
"Even now, you know," said Otho after a
slight pause, "it isn't too late, if Royce is willing
to go on. Nothing is settled."
"He won't; don't entertain such an idea for
a moment — ^he won't! No, Royce is relieved —
I can assure you he is relieved — ^to think that
there are only four more nights before we finish."
"It's a thousand pities," he murmured; "I'm
sorrier than I can say. He's been consistent, of
course; one can't deny that, but WeD, I'm
bound to admit he seems to me to be playing
"'Consistent'! Oh, let's talk about some-
"He explained from the beginning the course
he meant to pursue. Don't fancy I'm making
excuses for him, but it was understood that he'd
only conduct a theatre on certain lines."
Si* THE ACTOR-MANAGER
"But it was, Mrs. Roycel"
"Oh, I know aU that I" she said, "but do you
suppose if " She rose impatiently.
"Do I suppose if — what?"
"Never mind; it doesn't matter 1"
"TeD me. What were you going to say?"
"I was going to say 'do you suppose we should
be leaving the theatre if Miss King had remained
in it?' " She looked round into his startled face.
"Miss King?" He stared up at her.
"Are you going to pretend you didn't know?
You needn't be considerate — ^my eyes have been
open a long while. As soon as he got a theatre,
he brought her into it. And when a piece that
meant a fortime was to be had, he opposed it
because there was no part in it for her; and be-
cause he was furious when you took my side and
he was obliged to let her go, he revenged himself
on me by giving the theatre up."
"Good GodI . . . Oh no?"
"I don't say that the theatre managed in an
ordinary way would ever have made him happy
— I know it wouldn't; but he'd never have gone
to such a length as this if he thought I was blind
enough to have that woman back in it. So mad
as that he's not I It was plain enough surely?
Everybody in the company must have talked.
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 828
In two months' time you'll see them both playing
at the same house." Her arms fell impotently.
"And so shaD ir
Unconsciously she had taken the pose that
she had adopted in Oliphant's play, when as
"Maud" she imagined that "Mrs. Vaughan"
was "Clement's" mistress. Her expression was
the same. Now, as then, her sensibilities were
profoundly stirred by a situation which her
judgment knew to be fictitious. She believed
this thing only while she wished to believe it,
and hitherto the belief had been assuasive. But
impulse had carried her before an "audience" —
and now she sounded the depths; the humiliation
was revealed, and her voice broke.
"I can't believe it," he said huskily; "I'D swear
I've never had a suspicion 1 You must be
"Heavens! Do you think I look for these
things — ^that I'm jealous?" Her laugh was
bitter. "I only care because I'm a woman and
I've pride to be hurt; for Royce I care no more
than I do for that chair. If I weren't a fool, I
suppose I shouldn't care at all, but . . • Ah,
don't worry about me — I'm used to it by
She turned aside, and leant her elbows on the
mantelpiece, her head between her closed hands.
SC4 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
There was a long silence, while he struggled to
remain in his seat.
"I'm frightfuDy sorry for you," he stammered,
Her face was hidden from him, but her little
nods were gratefvd, and pathetic. He stood
combating the temptation to touch her — ^his
sympathy yearned to touch her, while his pru-
dence warned him to resist. His hand moved
towards her twice, and was twice caught back.
Then he drew hers down.
*T)on't — I can't bear to see you miserable,"
Her fingers thanked him, and now he perceived
that she was crying.
"If you knew how hard my life is I" she fal-
She raised her eyes to him; and the next mo-
ment he had kissed her.
But the words that poured from him were not
the words demanded by her mood. He up-
braided himself, and vowed that he would never
see her again. She did not want to pity his
self-reproaches — she wanted him to silence hers.
He was her penitent, and she would have had
him her master. She was begged to understand
his remorse, and she wanted to be swept from
hesitation by his love. As she listened, the out-
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 325
look grew strangely dark, the gloom of it chilled
her, and she felt forlorn. A sense of hopelessness
overwhelmed her — and she realised that she had
He went from her abased. The kiss and his
avowal had rendered him contemptible ; and that
she had told him she was fond of him seemed to
increase his enormity. He wished she had not
told him she was fond of him — ^the impression
left by the afternoon was graver because she had
said that. But if she had been anybody's wife
but 01iphant*sl Terrible that a woman's per-
fection could be patent to all the world except
her husband I Her view of the retirement from
the Mayfair as an act of retaliation was far-
fetched, preposterous, but though she was mis-
taken there, the main charge might be true.
What wonder that she was unhappy, poor girl?
He regretted the visit passionately; he had de-
termined to avoid her, and he was given cause
to feel ashamed after all. That was cruel I And
now, too, he would be ten times more wretched
apart from her. It would even be wrong to take
leave of her — or for them to meet in a year's time
— knowing what they knew. And Oliphantl
how distressing to have to meet Oliphant again I
He went from her abased, and Blanche sat
motionless, with wide eyes. Never had she per-
826 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
mitted herself to recognise her fancies as expec-
tation, but they were buried in their real name.
How their companionship had sustained her their
death displayed. She knew now that she had
desired to gain the existence to which Otho Fair-
bairn was the key; knew that, though this sudden
sensation of blankness would not last, she would
remember and repine as long as she lived — ^would
think of the might-have-been when she had lost
her prettiness and her figure, and the Lady
Flecks of the period were oblivious of an elderly
actress whose only recommendation was her
virtue. Then to her despondence arose the ghost
of her hope; and in sight of it she demanded
why the ambition of a woman like herself should
be frustrated by so weak a man. Man? He was
a boy in everything but his age! Should she
resign herself to being balked by his scruples?
She went to the Mayf air that evening wonder-
ing if she would see him; but Otho was not there.
Nor did he appear on the next, though he had
been compelled to accept a dinner invitation to
support his oath. On the penultimate night he
failed; but he compromised with resolution by
entering the theatre only for a few minutes to
mention that he was going to Trouville.
"You'll come to Green Street first?'* she asked.
He had intended to make his adieux to her and
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 8«7
Oliphant in the office on the morrow, but now
"Do you think I had better go to the house?"
Her face hardened, and she made no reply
for a moment.
"No!" she said coldly. "Good-bye. I hope
it will be a pleasant change, Mr. Fairbaim."
"For God's sake don't be cruel," he muttered.
"I'm suffering enough!"
She had moved apart from him, and he fol-
lowed her humbly.
"Blanche I Are you angry with me?'*
" *Angry' ?" she echoed, pausing. "What right
have I to be *angry' with you? You'll do as you
please, of course."
"May I come Sunday for half an hour?"
"Sunday I shall be out," she said. • • • "If
you wish to, come to-morrow afternoon."
She returned to the dressing-room, her pulses
quickened by suspense. To-morrow he would
again tell her how miserable he was; but would
he implore her to make him happy? It would
be then or never! If he would but beg her to
leave London with him — ^if he would only say
the words I She would become his wife, and their
elopement would be forgotten. The prospect
8X8 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
dizzied her and swam before her gaze; she quiv-
ered in ecmtemplating the position.
There was no sign of agitation, however, in
the greeting that he was accorded ; its tranquillity
relieved him. Her manner had neither the
resentment that he had winced at on the pre-
vious evening, nor the implication that he had
vaguely dreaded. She spoke of Trouville, and
asked him if it was '"nice." There was a casino,
she supposed? Every French watering-place
had a casino, hadn't it? And one played a game
called "'Little Horses," which was the Monte
Carlo gamble adapted for the nursery, and had
ices and flirtations on a terrace overlooking the
sea? How he would enjoy himself I It must be
delicious, especially after dinner in the moon-
He felt that it would indeed be delicious were
she beside him there, but merely answered that
it would bore him to death. Her small talk
hurt him as speedily as it was meant to do,
although before he came he had perceived in
the subject of Trouville some promise of safety.
She was paler than usual, he noted; there were
shadows beneath her eyes, and in spite of her
attempt at animation, her tone, her pose itself,
had a certain lassitude.
It was now for him to sustain her courageous
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 889
effort, for she was silent. In the silence her face
looked wearier still.
"Where — ^which theatre do you think you will
go to next?" he said, when the pause had grown
"How can I tell?" she murmured. *Why?"
"I should have liked to know what you were
going to do — I shan't be in London for a long
while; I don't expect I shall remain in Europe."
"You are going to travel? Where — in im-
possible places? Have you made your plans?"
He shook his head.
"You mean to go just where impulse takes
you? How lovely I It must be simply perfect
to wander about the world like that."
"Terfecf?" said he. "You know that I'm
going because I must I You know very well I
shall be wretched 1"
She did not answer, but her lips trembled.
When they had trembled, she averted her face.
"Don'* you know it?"
"Perhaps you think you will. You'll soon
forget me. A man can forget so easily."
Then the scene of which she had been confi-
dent was enacted. He told her all that she had
known he was going to tell her, omitting only
the petition that she was eager to hear. Though
his devotion dishonoured him, though his goddess
880 THE ACTOR-MANAGER
was day, this ordeal was the severest that he
had been called upon to bear; to part from her
tortured him; and when he cried that he ^^adored"
her, the word was no more than the literal ex-
pression of a fact. Her suspense began to be
tinged by impatience, even by misgiving.
She tore her hands from him, and sprang to
**Why did you come into my life?" she ex-
claimed; "I could have borne the rest!"
As she was clasped, she was momentarily san-
guine; but expectation faded, and the coldness
of dismay sank through her limbs again.
"Say good-bye to mel" he urged; "for Gk)d's
sake, let me say it while I can!"
Her eyes fastened on him, but he released her,
and was going. She watched him cross the room.
All that she tiiirsted for was receding — affluence,
splendour, everything that could make life worth
living was in this man's holdl In another second
the darkness would have fallen, and would lift
no more. She would not, she could not, let him
go I She uttered a great cry, and threw herself
sobbing on the couch.
"I Ve only you in the world V* she gasped, ding-
ing to him.
Then suddenly — ^as she looked up into his white
face — she faltered. Morality, convention, the
THE ACTOR-MANAGER 881
restraining instinct, awoke and terrified her in
spite of herself. She strove to stifle it, to harden
herself against it, she battled with it as a woman
may battle with a physical weakness. Her mind
whirled. Why did he give her time to reflect?
A moment more, and horror would have con-
quered her! Why didn't he succumb? • • •
Fairbaim moved towards the window, and the
clock ticked away a minute while he gazed fixedly
at the street. A hansom was crawling along the
hot road, and he observed the minutias of a han-
som for the first time. When the hansom was
out of sight he gradually became aware that he
was thinking. He was conscious of a dull wonder
at his own apathy. His most distinguishable
feeling was regret, but neither remorse nor pas-
sion was acute; he felt dreary and sad. The
clock ticked; and he stood realising the position.
Well, he would make her his wife as soon as
possible. . . . Oliphant would despise him — ^not
more than he deserved. Perhaps Oliphant would
marry Miss King after the divorce? If they
cared for each other much, one might be sure he
would — and they'd be happy. None the less,
they would always condemn him, Otho Fairbaim,
as a scoundrel . • • But his worst sin was
towards the angel who had sacrificed her reputa*
88« THE ACTOR-MANAGER
ticm for love of him I At this point he looked
round at her, f urtiyely, ashamed.
The woman whom he had yet to miderstand
lay back upon the sofa with her eyes closed —